Jan 6, 2016

The Tragic Story of Italian/American Player: Tony Conigliaro (1964-1971/ 1975)

Anthony Richard Conigliaro, was born on January 7, 1945 in Revere, Massachusetts.

The six foot three, right hand hitting outfielder was signed out of St. Mary’s High School in Lynn, Massachusetts by the home town Boston Red Sox in 1962.

The highly touted prospect came up to the big leagues in 1964 at age 19, getting the starting left field job. He played Fenway Parks Green Monster wall, alongside Carl Yastrzemski.

On April 17th, 1965 (his first Fenway at bat) Tony C hit a HR off Joe Horlen of the Chicago White Sox. He would hit 24 HRs in his rookie season, setting an MLB record for most HRs by a teenager. He broke his arm, missing over a month of action, but still batted .290 with 21 doubles & 52 RBIs. The Minnesota Twins, Tony Oliva won the batting title that year & beat out Tony C. for the Rookie of the Year Award. 

In 1965 Conigliaro became the youngest AL player to ever lead the league in HRs, as he belted 32. He led the Sox in runs scored (82) & drove in 82 runs as well, both eighth best in the AL. He made ten outfield assists that year, second most in the league, with  a.982 fielding%.

He also struck out 116 times and would K over 100 times in three different seasons. By 1966 he was considered one of leagues better players, hitting 28 HRs with 26 doubles, a league leading seven sac flies & 93 RBIs (6th in the AL) that year.

In 1967 the Red Sox went to the World Series in their “Impossible Dream” season. Tony C played in the shadows of his Triple Crown, MVP winning team mate; Carl Yastrzemski. Conigliaro made his first All Star team that year and became the youngest player to ever reach the 100 HR mark.

Tragedy struck him on August 18, 1967, as the Red Sox played the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park. Former Met pitcher; Jack Hamilton, hit Conigliaro in the face with a pitch, striking him on the left cheekbone.

Conigliaro went down unconscious, and lie motionless on the field. All of Boston held their breathe, in one of the most brutal beanings the game has ever seen. Ton C was carried off the field on a stretcher, suffering a linear fracture of the left cheekbone, a dislocated jaw and severe damage to his left retina.

The scene is remembered as one of the games worst on field tragedies in the television age. Tony would miss the rest of the season and a chance to play in the World Series. More importantly he was never the same player again and almost lost his eye sight permanently.

Although the pitch was not intentional, pitcher Jack Hamilton had a rough time dealing with the event& was never the same either.

After a long year and a half absence, Tony C returned to baseball in 1969. He played in over 140 games for the Red Sox, winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award, hitting .255 with 20 HRs & 82 RBIs.

1970 was even a better year, as he had career highs with 36 HRs (4th in the AL) 116 RBIs (second in the AL) & 89 runs scored, while batting .266. That year he got to play alongside his brother; Billy Conigliaro in the Red Sox outfield.

In October 1970 Tony got traded to the California Angels, along with Ray Jarvis and Jerry Moses, in exchange for Doug Griffin, Jarvis Tatum and Ken Tatum. But Tony suffered vision problems & started getting severe headaches, only appearing in 74 games.

He was out of baseball for the next three seasons, making a brief comeback for the 1975 AL Champion Red Sox. He appeared in 21 games hitting just .123. It was a sad finish to what should have been a spectacular career.

Passing: In 1982 he suffered a heart attack then a stroke, and remained in a coma for the final eight years of his life. Tony C passed away at the young age of 45, in Salem, Massachusetts in 1990. That season, the Red Sox wore black arm bands in his honor.

In his career he had 849 hits, with 264 HRs 139 doubles, 23 triples, 464 runs scored, 516 RBIs & a .266 average. He also struck out 629 times in 876 games.

1 comment:

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