Jackie Price: Fatal Sadness of a Baseball Clown

Jackie Price A talented man met a sad end.

Jackie Price
A talented man met a sad end.

My first literary exposure to depression as the infamous destroyer of life occurred in my junior year English class at St. Thomas High School. That was also  the year I recall Father Sheedy telling us, “Don’t simply listen to the measured rhyme and meter of a poem. Listen first for the life message it contains.” With that kind of aim in mind, Father Sheedy then introduced us to Richard Cory:

Richard Cory

By Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

 

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

 

And he was richyes, richer than a king

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

 

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

 

And the beat goes on. Last weekend, Academy Award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was sadly the latest portrayal of Richard Cory, snuffing out his own life, however, unintentionally, with a heroin syringe full of deadly poison. And please, never let those of us in the baseball community ever forget people  like Don Wilson, Ken Caminiti, and Willard Hershberger of the 1940 Cincinnati Reds. They were all Richard Cory at the end of things. Drugs and alcohol may have provided the fatal bullet, but depression was the gun that fired it in the first place.

 Jackie Price was an extraordinary athlete. As a 33-year old shortstop, he went only 3 singles for 13 times at bat for the 1946 Cleveland Indians. He never walked, but he also never struck out. His ability to coordinate his body and get the bat on the ball were too uncanny for the usually handful of “K”s by a rookie breaking in to the bigs. Price retired from active play after 1946, but soon moved into a new career as a performer of incredible baseball tricks in pre-game shows at baseball parks all over the country.

Price could hit a pitched ball to the outfield while hanging upside down by his heels at home plate. He could simultaneously throw hard pitched balls to three different men at three different spots on the field. And he could chase fly balls in a Jeep that he was driving and catch them on the move in his glove as smoothly as a DiMaggio. I saw his whole act at Buff Stadium in Houston, sometime around the 1950 period, and I was just blown away by all the great athletic things that Jackie Price could do.

Price’s bravest act? He would play catcher to a pitcher throwing fast balls and curves, but he would make his catches with his back turned to the pitcher – and bent over forward so that his head and glove reappeared upside down between his own legs for the act of catching the ball.

WOW! – I could not find Jackie Price’s old act on YouTube, but they show a full old movie short of what he did on Turner Classic Movies, once in a while, usually in the time leading up to the start of baseball season. You really have to see it to believe it.

By the late 1950s, Price was pretty much washed up as America drifted into becoming a nation that stayed home to watch television more and seemed to care less about going to the ballpark and watching a guy chase fly balls in a jeep. If only cell phones had been around back then. I would have loved watching the jeep chase of fly balls with Price handling a conference call at the same time.

The word is that Jackie Price battled depression for several years. Then, one day, on October 2, 1967, at age 54, he simply ended it all, hanging himself in his San Francisco home.

Unfortunately, people too often ignore clinical depression, mistaking it for the normal down mood cycle that e all experience to some degree, until the day comes that mood deflation hatches this erroneous, but compelling thought or  feeling: “Things are horrible and they are never going to get better. Life is a bottomless, endless pit of pain and there’s only thing that can change it – End your own life.”

One only has to be in that state of mind for as long as it takes to Load and fire a gun; hang and string a rope; or swallow a whole bottle of rat poison.

Overcoming depression is not a matter of will power. It is a serious biochemical imbalance that may or may not be linked to previous emotional trauma. It may require a combination of medication, counseling, and life style change to achieve the goal of successful recovery. Anyone whose only strategy is privately talking themselves out of suicide when the urge to leave life strikes is simply lining up join the long line of Richard Corys that have  gone before them.

If you think you may be clinically depressed, please talk to your doctor, or someone objective you trust before it’s too late.

 

 

 

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5 Responses to “Jackie Price: Fatal Sadness of a Baseball Clown”

  1. Wayne Roberts Says:

    Amen

  2. Stacy Gross Says:

    Jackie Price is my great uncle. Thank you for including his talents in your article. His is dearly missed.

  3. Lisa Heersink Says:

    Saddened I was never able to know my grandfather Jackie Price. If only he were able to get help for the depression.

  4. Jackie Price: The Duke of Baseball Dexterity | The Pecan Park Eagle Says:

    […] Jackie Price: Fatal Sadness of a Baseball Clown […]

  5. Gale Says:

    Thanks, I had one teammate on our 1959 Oklahoma state championship high school team commit suicide and another teammate drank himself to death. I just started attending Emotions Anonymous. Yes, reach out for help. It’s out there.

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