Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Tragic Story of Tony Conigliaro 6/17/20

Hey baseball fans!

Carl Yastrzemski is one of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history, but he was not the only star outfielder that graced the grass of Fenway in the 1960s. The Red Sox used to have a right-handed hitter by the name of Tony Conigliaro. Conigliaro was a great hitter for the first few years of his career, and looked to continue that trend deep into that 1967 "Impossible Dream" season for the BoSox. Then, in August of that season, tragedy struck. 

Tony Conigliaro debuted in Boston in 1964 at the ripe age of 19. He didn't place for Rookie of the Year voting, but he did hit 24 home runs that year and batted .290. Those 24 home runs are a record among teenage hitters in baseball history, getting Red Sox fans excited for a possible World Series championship in the coming years, something they hadn't experienced since 1918. Conigliaro continued his power at the plate in subsequent years, hitting a league-leading 32 homers in 1965 and a respectable 28 home runs in 1966. In 1967, the Red Sox right fielder made his first All Star Game, reaching 20 homers by mid-August, and became the second-youngest hitter ever to 100 career home runs (only behind Mel Ott). Then, on August 18, 1967, in a home game against Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton, Conigliaro was struck by a pitch on his left cheekbone, which left him with a broken jaw and a damaged retina. Conigliaro wasn't wearing a helmet with an ear-flap that we see often today, but it's this specific incident that actually made that flap so encouraged for hitters. Conigliaro was forced to sit out the entire 1968 season. Although he returned in 1969, winning Comeback Player of the Year with 20 homers and 82 RBIs, he was not the same hitter as before. 1970 was his last great year, when he collected career highs in home runs (36) and RBIs (116). After that, he fizzled out due to his deteriorating sight. He died in 1990 at 45 years old. 

Not only was Conigliaro not in the Red Sox lineup for the 1967 World Series, but had he played a full career, he would've most likely been with the Sox for the 1975 World Series. Both the '67 and '75 Fall Classics went seven games, so it's justifiable to say that had Conigliaro not gotten so tragically injured, the Red Sox would've broken the Curse of the Bambino long before events involving Mookie Wilson or David Ortiz. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

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