Eisenreich enters Missouri Sports Hall
Former Major Leaguer thrived despite condition
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It didn't dawn on former Major League outfielder Jim Eisenreich -- until he was inducted Sunday night into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame -- that 1987 was quite a special year for him.
Eisenreich had been on the voluntary retired list since June 4, 1984, after appearing in only 12 games for the Minnesota Twins that season. After appearing in two games in the the '83 season, Eisenreich found out he had a nervous disorder -- Tourette Syndrome -- but still had no idea how to get a grip on his situation.
"My intention as a voluntary retired person was to actually retire and get my health," said Eisenreich, who turns 48 in April. "I really didn't care about playing anymore."
After the Royals paid a $1 waiver claim to the Twins in Oct., '86, Eisenreich signed a Minor League contract and reported to Kansas City's Spring Training camp in '87.
Coupled with his shot to return to the big leagues was the fact that Eisenreich's younger brother of five years, Charlie, signed his first professional contract and reported to the Royals Minor League camp in the spring of '87. Charlie Eisenreich, now a high school principal in their hometown of St. Cloud, Minn., played his only season as a baseball pro with the Appleton Foxes, at the time the Royals' Class A affiliate in the Midwest League.
Jim Eisenreich's promotion to the Royals on June 17 -- after hitting .382 at Memphis in the Southern League -- carried meaning, yet played a small part in his eyes compared to what was going on with his family. Jim's father, Cliff, suffered from emphysema and was unable to travel much. Cliff, who followed all sports but loved baseball most according to Jim, never saw his son play a game in Kansas City and died in 1990. Eisenreich will never forget his first home run as a member of the Royals, July 2, 1987, because it took place in Kansas City against the Twins.
"Whenever any [Twins] game was on TV, my dad was watching and of course they're going to be watching now that I'm playing for the Royals," Eisenreich said when reflecting on '87. "I, no doubt, remember. I hit it off the middle fountain thing out there."
Though Cliff Eisenreich never made the trip to Kansas City for a game, his son Jim felt satisfied he made the most of his second chance to get to the big leagues.
"I missed some years there and I think that was eating at him because he was a big strong man who could take care of anybody and anything, but couldn't help his own son when we didn't know what was going on. We didn't know what Tourette Syndrome was," said Eisenreich, a .290 lifetime career hitter in 15 seasons with five different clubs. "When I came back and played for the Royals, I think it was a sense of relief that it was going to be okay."
Through the help of medication, Eisenreich learned how to deal with his condition and stayed with the Royals for four more seasons. He joined the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent in 1993, a timely move since the Phillies won the National League pennant that year. In '97, again a free agent, Eisenreich hooked on with the Florida Marlins and was part of a world championship. In his words, with the Marlins he "got the ring with the real diamond."
These days Eisenreich, who lives in the Kansas City area, is intent on continuing to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome through the Jim Eisenreich Foundation.
"I had a great career," Eisenreich said from the podium Sunday night. "I never thought I could do what I did with baseball. I know that Tourette Syndrome was obviously a major part of my life. I think the good Lord works in mysterious ways."
Greg Echlin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.