Fear Strikes Out (1957)
These days, what with star athletes embroiling themselves in murders and lesser felonies on a regular basis, it's refreshing to watch a movie about a ballplayer who only had to confront going crazy. Jimmy Piersall was a quick, slick-fielding, singles-hitting center fielder for the Boston Red Sox in the 1950s who went through some very public episodes of what today would probably be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. He even wrote an autobiography dealing with his problems, Fear Strikes Out, published while Piersall was in the middle of his careeramazing for any era but especially so in the '50s, when mental illness wasn't spoken of in polite society. In 1957 Piersall's book was made into a movie, with Anthony Perkinsnot a name you'd find on anyone's short list to impersonate a professional baseball playerturning in one of the finest roles of his career as the protagonist, to whom he bore more than a passing physical resemblance. Karl Malden is also memorable as the demanding, domineering dad who didn't exactly make it easy for his son. Piersall was brave to confront his difficulties so publicly; and Fear Strikes Out treats him sincerely and respectfully, without sensation.