The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

JULY  2005

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Eisenreich vs. Tourette Syndrome

By Jerry Keys

He was supposed to be with the others.  Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Frank Viola, Tim Laudner, all a core of young talent on a long-running hapless team.  The year was 1982 and the Minnesota Twins were building a nucleus of young talent.  Five years later the Twins won the World Series and nine years later another.  Only Hrbek was there for both and a few years after the 1982 nucleus was established, a few more were added (Kirby Puckett, Dan Gladden, Greg Gagne, etc.).  But what happened to that kid who got off to such a great start in

1982?  Jim somebody……..Jim Wright wasn't it?

The player was Jim Eisenreich.  A highly touted prospect that was one of over a dozen prized prospects to come out of the Minnesota farm system in the early-mid 1980's.  His career got of to a blazing start in '82 until he was diagnosed.

Throughout Jim's childhood, he always made odd jerks and twitches.  Doctors were puzzled at why this occurred, teachers thought he could stop doing it anytime he wanted, and his classmates ridiculed him for it.  One teacher went as far as to tease him because he was clearing his throat uncontrollably.  This led Jim to spend a great amount of time alone.

Jerry Keys

The same children that teased him were also the ones that picked him first in baseball games.  After a successful high school and college career, he was drafted by the Twins in the 16th round of the 1980 amateur draft.  Scouts may

have noticed his odd quirks but this kid could hit.

Jim feared he would have an episode in front of everyone at the ballpark, which made matters worse.  At Fenway Park, in Boston, it happened three games in a row and he was taken out of the game.  When the team returned to Minneapolis, team doctors run numerous tests on him to discover the problem.

Some physicians hypothesized that it was a psychological disorder, which Jim knew to be false.  It was eventually determined that Jim suffered from Tourette Syndrome.  He was placed on medication and Jim began the long road back to baseball.

Eisenreich's promising rookie year was cut short after a great start (.303, 34 games) and he saw limited duty for the Twins in the next two years (2 games in 1983 and 12 in 1984) as he underwent treatment.  Jim once made a reference to "feeling like a walking pharmacy" when he was being prescribed different types of medication. 

Jim saw no baseball activity in 1985 and 1986 and was released by the Twins after the 1986 season.  He was 28 and wasn't sure if he would ever play baseball again.  A little known neurological disorder has robbed him of his dream to play baseball.  That could have been the easy way out but that just wasn't Jim.

He was signed by the Kansas City Royals and began playing baseball again in 1987.  He returned to the minor and was recalled to the big leagues in time to log more playing time than he did in his three previous years.  Although he batted a paltry .238, he was on his way back.  Jim spent five more years in Kansas City and collected at least 95 hits in the last four years.

Jim's strange disappearance was all forgotten about, it had been about ten years ago and he had made a triumphant return to baseball.  But he never really reached his full potential.  He was 34 when the Philadelphia Phillies signed him to a one-year contract.  It was in Philly that Jim's career took off like it should have eleven years earlier.  He batted .318, collected 115 hits, and launched a home run in the '93 World Series.

Eisenreich posted averages of .300, .316, and .361 in the following three years with Philadelphia and his miraculous comeback was being brought up frequently.  Instead of trying to hide the fact that he had suffered from Tourette Syndrome, Jim brought it to the forefront.

Jim played two more years (1997 with Florida and 1998 with Florida and Los Angeles) and saw action in the '97 World Series.  He collected a World Series ring and another four-bagger.

Jim retired with 1160 hits and a .290 average after 1998, a career fulfilled after a very rocky beginning.  He established the Jim Eisenreich Foundation for Children with Tourette Syndrome and gives seminars around the country to help make people aware of what he and thousands of others went through.

There is currently no known cure for Tourette Syndrome (but can be brought under control with proper medication) and it is estimated that anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 Americans deal with this disorder.  The first known study of Tourette's was in the late 1800's in France and over 125 years later there is still not that much known about the origins of the ailment.

Jim Eisenreich may not have a place set aside for him in Cooperstown but he brought a neurological disorder to the forefront; and still had a very productive career.