The Red Sox took a shot on outfielder Jackie Jensen, who had been an All-Star a season earlier, sending Mickey McDermott and Tom Umphlett to the Washington Senators in December 1953 to get the former multi-sport star at the University of California.
Jensen’s powerful pull-hitting stroke was a perfect match for the Green Monster in Fenway and he became one of the most productive run producers of the second half of the decade.
Jensen was a two-time All-Star for the Red Sox, winning the MVP award in 1958 after hitting .286/.396/.931 with 35 homers and a league-best 122 RBI. It was one of three RBI crowns for Jensen with Boston, also leading the league in 1955 and 1959.
He also topped the American League in stolen bases in 1954 and won a Gold Glove in 1959
But as teams relied more and more upon air travel, Jensen’s fear of flying became a bigger problem, per the Society for American Baseball Research. It was that fear, along with marital troubles, that prompted Jensen to retire after the 1959 season at age 32.
He sat out a season, but returned to the Red Sox in 1961. However, his power stroke was gone and he fought more with the fear factor as well, with the AL adding an expansion team in Los Angeles and the old Senators moving to Minnesota,
Jensen left the team for several days after hitting just .130 in April, and sought treatment from a hypnotist at a Las Vegas nightclub as a last resort. He did return to the club and played well until fading in September.
But there were still problems — he drove 650 miles from Boston to Cleveland instead of joining the team on the flight and skipped their next series in Los Angeles, instead driving to Kansas City and rejoining the team there.
He retired for good at the end of the season. In seven seasons for Boston, Jensen hit .282/.374/.852, an OPS+ of 120, with 199 homers, 929 RBI, 810 runs scored and 143 stolen bases.
In retirement, Jensen divorced his wife, Zoe Ann, re-married her, and then divorced again, with the two splits wiping out most of his wealth. He worked in radio in Reno for a spell and did some college football commentary for ABC.
In 1968, he was named head baseball coach at the University of Nevada, but a heart attack in March 1969 forced him to quit. He later coached baseball at the University of California for four years before retiring to Virginia in 1977.
He died July 14, 1982 from a heart attack at the age of 55.