Remembering Tony Conigliaro

 

On this date in 1967, Tony Conigliaro (also known as Tony C. to Red Sox fans) was beaned by a high, hard one from Angel’s pitcher Jack Hamilton. It’s ironic that tonight the Red Sox are again playing the Angels on this grim anniversary. 

I was only 4 years old at the time, and can still remember watching it on a black & white TV in the living room with my dad. At the time I thought Tony C. had been killed. He was one of the brightest and most gifted young players in Red Sox history, a local kid from Revere and East Boston in the days before free agency when players often signed and stayed with a club for their careers.

The 1967 season is remembered by Red Sox fans who were alive then as “The Impossible Dream,” when the magic of Tony C., Carl “Yaz” Yazstremski and Rico Petrocelli filled Fenway Park with faith, hope and the love of classic baseball.

As for Tony C., he was the youngest home run champion at age 20 when he hit 32 in 1965, and was also the youngest player to reach 100 career home runs during 1967. Statistically he was very similar to Mickey Mantle at age 20-21. He loved to crowd the plate, and that proved to be his downfall.

After he was hit, Tony C. was temporarily blinded in his left eye and missed the entire 1968 season. He won the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1969, and continued to play for several more years but was never the same. He retired for the second and final time with the Red Sox in 1975 at the age of 30. He died in 1990 at the young age of 45.

In the immortal words of Boston sportswriter Dan Shaugnessey,

Tony C was youth and hope. Always it seemed there would be another comeback.

Now he is gone and will be frozen in time — forever tall, dark and handsome, a slugger for the ages . . .

‘Nuf Ced.

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