All-Star Brawler: Martin (NYY) v. Piersall (BOS)

MAY 24, 1952 - FENWAY PARK

When he was a little boy, Billy Martin was instructed by his mother: “Don’t take nothing from nobody. If you can’t hit ‘em, bite ‘em.” He never forgot the lesson learned at his mother's knee. When Jimmy Piersall needled him, “Hey Pinocchio,” Martin’s reaction was swift, assured, and practiced. “Let’s settle this under the stands right now,” the Yankees second baseman replied with alacrity. He dropped the Red Sox rookie to the ground, bloodying him with two swift punches to the nose.

The Martin-Piersall brawl was not a seminal event in the history of New York-Boston hostilities. It did not ignite the modern rivalry as the 1938 brawl had done, or revive it as the 1973 fracas between Munson and Fisk would do. It did showcase two memorable personalities, however, and spotlighted one combatant in particular whose career achievements as a brawler warrant special recognition.

In retrospect, the fight was a bit sad, even pathetic. Jimmy Piersall was developing into the best defensive centerfielder for the Red Sox since Tris Speaker, but it would become clear a little later in the season that he had another foe to struggle against in the form of manic depression. In a game against the St. Louis Browns on June 12, he reached first base on a bunt off Satchel Paige and then began to imitate the legendary pitcher’s throwing motion, snorting like a pig. Paige said after the game: “That boy’s sick.” Piersall was hospitalized in July. CONTINUED....



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