"I was scared," said Piersall. "As I came across the outfield I got a standing ovation, me, a .245 hitter last year. There were 55,000 people there. I've never had a bigger thrill.
"Bunning was pitching for Detroit, and I made up my mind to hit that first pitch. He threw it in and I hit a line drive over shortstop to tie the game. If the ground hadn't been so wet it would have gone between the outfielders, and everybody would have scored. As it was, we lost."
Kuenn was hurt in that first game, so Piersall began to play every day. By the time Kuenn was well, Bond had started looking like a rookie. Piersall was back as a regular.
In early May against Chicago, Piersall got into a fiery argument with home-plate umpire Frank Umont from the on-deck circle. Johnny Temple was at bat, and Umont had called a questionable strike. Temple just blinked his eyes, but Piersall argued violently. When he came to bat, Piersall renewed the argument, finally stopped, faced the pitcher, Billy Pierce, and hit the first pitch on a line over the left-field fence.
Desire to win
"I think I play better when I'm mad," said Piersall. "I just wanted to beat Pierce and I didn't think Umont was calling a good game. I figured that if Temple squawked he'd be tossed out quick, since he's just over from the National League. So I told Umont to bear down. When I got up to bat and Umont wagged his finger at me, I told him to stop or I'd bite it off. Then I told myself Pierce was going to throw a slider, so I'd be set. It was a slider."
The next day Piersall ruined Herb Score's composure by leading off with a bunt, stealing second and third and scoring on an overthrow. "It was Gordon's idea to bunt," said Piersall. "I want to give him credit." His next time up, Piersall hit a long drive to straight center field. Jim Landis got his glove on it, but crashed into the wire fence and collapsed, the ball falling over the fence for a home run. Piersall, thinking the ball had been caught, stopped at first base, threw his batting helmet into the Cleveland dugout and waited for someone to bring him his glove. Finally he discovered what had happened and, bareheaded, raced around the bases at top speed, as he does after every home run he hits.
Near the end of May, the Indians moved into Detroit. "I've always thought Detroit was vicious," said Piersall. "The trouble started there in 1954, when I was with the Red Sox. I had made a good catch off Fred Hatfield, and they started booing me, so I showed them my teeth. They were furious. They started throwing paper clips and whisky bottles and debris. Bill McKinley, the umpire, comes trotting out and tells me I'm the instigator and that he's going to throw me out. He should have forfeited the game. The next day in the papers they call me the instigator. I had to go to the dictionary to look the word up. I've never signed autographs in Detroit since then.
"This year I hit a three-run homer in the ninth to put us ahead 6-4. When I went out to center field they start hitting me with ice cubes and paper clips. I told Larry Napp the game should be forfeited and he just laughed. Just as the game ended, someone threw a firecracker—they wrap pieces of wire around them so they travel further—and it went off, making a lot of noise and smoke.
"I lost 10 pounds that day and we had a double-header coming up in Chicago the next day. I was exhausted. We had a long bus ride from the train to the hotel in Chicago. My regular roommate, Johnny Klippstein, was visiting his family, so I was rooming with John Powers, and he had a cold and he snored all night. It kept me awake.