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On This Date in Sports January 26, 1960: Flying into Retirement

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

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Citing a fear of flying and a desire to spend more time with his family, Boston Red Sox star Jackie Jensen announces his retirement at the age of 32. Jensen had won the American League MVP in 1958 and led the league in RBI in each of the past two seasons. Jensen would return to the Red Sox in 1961 after undergoing therapy but played just one more season.

Jackie Jensen was born in San Francisco on March 9, 1927. Raised by a single mother, Jensen enrolled at the University of California after serving in the Navy at the end of World War II. There he was a two-sport star, helping the Bears win the first College World Series in 1947 beating a Yale team that featured George Bush in the championship. He also finished fourth in the Heisman leading Cal into a Rose Bowl appearance in 1949.

After beginning his professional career with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, Jackie Jensen was sold to the New York Yankees along with Billy Martin. The Yankees had initially planned for Jensen to be the replacement of Joe DiMaggio, but the arrival of Mickey Mantle made him expendable as he was traded to the Washington Senators in 1952. With the Senators, Jackie Jensen finally got a chance to play every day and shined, making it to the All-Star Game, batting .280 with ten home runs and 80 RBI. After the 1953 season was traded again this time to the Boston Red Sox.

With the Red Sox, Jackie Jensen continued to develop into a star, batting .276 with 25 home runs and 117 RBI as he led the league with 22 steals. Jensen was named to the All-Star team again in 1955, with 26 homers and league-leading 116 RBI. A year later he enjoyed his first season hitting above .300 with a career-high .315 average. Jackie Jensen enjoyed his finest season in 1958, as he was an All-Star for the third time in his career as he hit .286 with a career-best 35 home runs and 122 RBI, to lead the American on the way to being named American League MVP. The following year, Jackie Jensen again led the league with 112 RBI and was becoming the star attraction in Fenway with Ted Williams on the verge of retiring.

At the same time, Jackie Jensen was rising into stardom, air travel was becoming more common. This helped spur baseball’s westward expansion. However, Jensen a West Coast guy who once contemplated a return to the PCL due to his hating being away from his family. Air travel was never easy for Jackie Jensen as he often experienced panic attacks and underwent hours of therapy. However, the more the Red Sox traveled by air the worse it got, leading Jensen to decide to retire just before reporting to Spring Training.

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Retiring at the prime of his career, Jackie Jensen had appeared in four episodes of “Home Run Derby”, beating Ernie Banks and Rocky Colavito while losing to Mickey Mantle twice. He would sit out the entire 1960 season, but after undergoing hypnotherapy, Jackie Jensen returned to the Red Sox in 1961, but had a sup-par season and called it quits for good following the season. In an 11-year career, Jackie Jensen hit .279 with 199 home runs and 929 RBI.