Red Sox’ Tony Conigliaro’s Injury 48 Years Ago


Injuries happen. It’s a part of life, it’s a part of baseball. There are injuries that end careers, and injuries that prompt heroic comebacks. Some injuries are flukes, some players just have that injury bug that they can’t seem to shake through out their usually short careers. No injury, well no injury in baseball that is, was perhaps more gruesome and more catastrophic than the one that occurred on this date in 1967.

Tony Conigliaro looked to have a bright, bright future ahead of him making a living as a Major League Baseball player when he signed at just 17 years-old in 1962. Born in Revere, Massachusetts, the young Conigliaro batted .363 with 24 long balls in his first professional season playing in the New York Penn League. Putting up outstanding numbers such as those, Conigliaro gave the Red Sox no choice but to call him up to the bigs.

In his rookie season, this time at just 19 years of age, the right fielder batted .290 with 24 home runs and 52 RBI’s in 111 games. That year, his 24 home runs would be the most the sport has seen by a teenager. On April 17th, 1964 the young super star homered in his first at bat in Fenway Park as well.

Conigliaro quickly became one of the game’s most-feared power hitters., hitting at least 20 home runs in each of his first four seasons, including leading the league with 32 moon shots in 1965.

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In 1967, the Impossible Dream season, Conigliaro became the second youngest player to reach the 100 home run plateu trailing only Hall of Famer Mel Ott. Conigliaro still holds the record for the youngest player to reach 100 home runs in the American League.

With new Red Sox pitching coach Sal Maglie, known as “The Barber”,  Jim Lonborg was now pitching inside to opposing batters. This was an issue the previous week in California with Lonborg brushing back hitters.

Conigliaro stepped to the plate in 1967 against the Angels’ Jack Hamilton. Conigliaro was hit in his left eye by a Hamilton pitch, then hit the dirt. Carried off the field in a stretcher, Red Sox fans wondered what was to come. Tony C. had been known to hang over the plate, so it is possible that Hamilton was trying brush him back.

Following a trip to the hospital, it was revealed that the young Tony C. amassed a linear fracture in his left cheekbone, severe damage to his left retina as well as a dislocated jaw. Conigliaro would have to watch the Red Sox in the Fall Classic not as a player, but a spectator.

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As we all know, the Red Sox went on to lose the series in seven games. If Boston had their young star, who had 20 home runs and 67 RBI’s in 95 games, the series might have played out differently.

Conigliaro sat out the 1968 season, but made a remarkable comeback in 1969. He it 20 home runs in 141 games and earned the “Comeback Player of the Year” award. In his return, Conigliaro told ownership that he had trouble seeing the ball because of the brightly colored clothing the fans were wearing in center field. Ownership then put a black tarp over the batter’s eye seats in center field.  Conigliaro set a career high in home runs and RBI in 1970, hitting 36 home runs and 116 RBI’s.

The following season he went to California to play for the Angels. He hit four home runs in 74 games. Then in 1975 he came back to Boston where he hit 2 home runs in 21 games and that marked the end of a career.

In 2007, the Red Sox added a 200-seat bleacher section on the right field roof and named it “Conigliaro’s Corner”. It was designed to target families and were reserved for Red Sox Nation members on Saturdays and Red Sox Kid Nation Members on Sundays. The seats were removed in the 2009 season.

Tony Conigliaro died February 24th, 1990 in Salem, Massachusetts. Had it not been for his horrific injury, Conigliaro could have helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 1967.