A promising rookie, Eisenreich vaulted through the minors and onto the Twins roster in 1982, but after a .303 start he was placed on the disabled list after suffering symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome, a nervous disorder that causes uncontrollable verbal and physical tics. The illness never left, but medication and Eisenreich's determination not to be ashamed of his condition helped him return with the Royals in 1987. A line drive hitter with little power, Eisenreich was used as a platoon player for most of his career, but finally blossomed in his mid-thirties as a regular on the Phillies during their run to the pennant in 1993.
Eisenreich had always exhibited strange behavior as a youngster, but most doctors chalked it up to hyperactivity. His disorder never disappeared, but it never really hindered him on the baseball diamond until April 30 of his rookie season, when Eisenreich began to lapse into convulsions in the Metrodome outfield. Eisenreich was forced to leave the game, and on the team's next road trip was taunted by Fenway Park fans.
Eisenreich's disorder was attributed to a "case of nerves" by some who believed that the rookie was simply overwhelmed by the pressure of being in the major leagues. But Eisenreich knew that it was something more, and doctors eventually diagnosed him with Tourette's. The illness forced him to abandon the 1983 and 1984 seasons after only a few games, and finally drove him to an early retirement. But medication helped him get his health problems under control and Eisenreich signed with the Royals in 1987. After nearly three years away from pro ball, he was called up to the majors after batting .382 as a DH for Kansas City's Double-A affiliate in Memphis.
In his first years with the Royals, Eisenreich was mostly used as a pinch-hitter and DH, since he was better able to control himself when not in the field. But in 1989 he got his first chance to fill in at all three outfield positions and proved he could still contribute despite Tourette's. Eisenreich batted .293 with 27 stolen bases and won the Royals Player of the Year Award.
After three more seasons in a platoon role for the Royals, he left as a free agent after the 1992 season to join the Phillies, where his career hit its high point. Originally signed as a backup outfielder and a left-handed bat off the bench, Eisenreich shared time with Wes Chamberlain in right during the Phillies' pennant-winning season of 1993 and hit over .300 in each of his four seasons in Philadelphia. When he got his first chance to be an everyday right fielder in 1995 at the age of 36, he came through, batting .316. He followed with a .361 performance the next year, but his season ended early when a foul tip broke his left foot on September 1.
Eisenreich joined the Marlins in 1997, and batted .280 in 120 games as an outfielder, first baseman, and pinch hitter as the club stormed to their first championship. But in May, Eisenreich fell victim to the team's veteran fire sale when he was traded to Los Angeles with Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, and Charles Johnson for Todd Zeile and Mike Piazza. He played miserably as a Dodger, batting just .197 in 79 games to finish the season at .215, and retired after the season.
Eisenreich never minded being a role player. "My calling in life was not to be a superstar ballplayer," he told Baseball Weekly in 1995. "I have another job to do: to be a quality player, help my team win and show kids who have Tourette's what they can accomplish."
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»June 3, 1980:
The New York Mets select 18-year-old Darryl Strawberry from Los Angeles's Crenshaw High School with the first pick in the annual June free-agent draft. The Blue Jays then pick SS Garry Harris. Lefty Ken Dayley (Braves) is the 3rd pick, pitcher Mike King (A's) 4th, Jeff Pyburn (Padres) 5th, and Darnell Coles (M's) 6th. The Reds pick Danny Tartabull on the 3rd round and Eric Davis on the 8th. On the 16th round, the Twins take Jim Eisenreich while the Red Sox pick Oil Can Boyd. On the 4th round of the secondary phase draft on June 5, the Rangers find gold with Tom Henke.
»May 4, 1982: Twins rookie OF Jim Eisenreich, who suffers from a nervous disorder known as Tourette's Syndrome, is forced to remove himself from a 5–3 loss to the Red Sox when he is taunted mercilessly by bleacher fans and his violent twitching becomes uncontrollable. Eisenreich, who was hitting .310 after making the jump from A ball to the major leagues, will be hospitalized on May 9th and will make several unsuccessful comeback attempts before retiring in 1984. He will ultimately return to the majors with the Royals in 1987.
»October 2, 1986:
The Kansas City Royals claim Jim Eisenreich off the waiver list. He's been out of organized baseball for the past two seasons because of Tourette's Syndrome after appearing in 46 games with The Twins in 1982-84.
»July 2, 1987:
Jim Eisenreich, making a comeback after being forced out of the major leagues by a nervous disorder. in 1984, hits his first ML home run since 1982 to lead the Royals to a 10–3 win over his former club, the Twins.
»December 3, 1996: The Marlins sign free agent OF Jim Eisenreich to a 2-year contract.
»October 21, 1997: In a slugfest, the Marlins plate seven runs in the 9th inning to outscore the Indians, 14-11, and take Game 3. Gary Sheffield drives in five runs for Florida on three hits, including a double and home run. Darren Daulton and Jim Eisenreich also homer for the Fish, while Jim Thome connects for Cleveland.