Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Tony Conigliaro. Conigliaro was born in Revere, Massachusetts in 1945. Signed by the hometown Red Sox as a 17-year old. The kid was about to become a hero. Ted Williams had just retired a few years earlier, they hadn’t finished better than third since 1949, and the only other player of substance on the team was a 22-year old in his second season named Carl Yastrzemski. Tony made his debut in Yankee Stadium on Opening Day in 1964. In his first at-bat in Fenway he homered. He finished the year hitting .290/.354/.530 with 24 homers in just 111 games. The next year he led the Junior Circuit with 32 homeruns. He hit 28 more in 1966. In 1965 he recorded “Little Red Scooter”, which became a local hit in Boston, and “Why Don’t They Understand”, which I think he was singing about the producers (as in “Why don’t they understand that no one will enjoy this five years from now except for some idiot who looks for absurd clips?”). In 1967 he was starting to really blossom. He had made his first All-Star team. On the morning of August 18 he was hitting .284/.338/.517 with 20 homers, 67 RBI, and 59 runs scored. More importantly the Sawx were in a pennant race. The American wasn’t especially strong that season, and Boston was caught up in what turned out to be a terrific four-team race that came down to the last day of the season. On this fateful day, though, the Red Sox were hosting the California Angels. The game was 0-0 in the bottom of the fourth with two out when Conigliaro stepped into the plate. Jack Hamilton delivered a pitch up and in that literally crushed Conigliaro’s face. He suffered a broken cheek bone, a dislocated jaw, and damage to his left retina. The Red Sox would win the game and the pennant, but Conigliaro’s season was over. As was his 1968 season.
Many people saw this as ruining his career, and in fact, many believed that his career was over. But in 1969 he won the Comeback Player of the Year Award, hitting 20 homers with 82 RBI. The next year he hit .266/.324/.498 with 36 homers and 116 RBI. He played a year in California of all places for a year, then hung them up. He made a brief restart back in Boston in 1975, but he was through. He became a sportscaster for a TV station in Rhode Island. He later moved to the west coast, but on his way back home for an interview he suffered a heart attack. Then he suffered a stroke and went into a coma. He remained in that state until his death in February of 1990. He was only 45 years old. He star at a young age for his hometown team. He was a hero to the local fans. Basically he was a comet; soaring through for a gleaming moment. But he did have that moment. I mean, he had an .849 OPS in the peak of a pitchers’ era (132 OPS+). He was the youngest player in American League history to hit 100 homeruns. He had a recording career. You can’t take those away from him. Ever.