If William Shakespeare were to be magically transported to modern times and if he were told of baseball and its rich and glorious history; and after studying it he were asked to choose and write about a classic tragic hero, he would simply say, “Tony C”.
Anthony Richard Conigliaro was born on January 7, 1945 and he had it all! He had it all!
To explain I must first tell you that I was 11 years old when “Tony C” made his major league debut in 1964. My last name is Sinibaldi, catch that vowel at the end? I was born in Boston and my folks lived in East Boston. Now East Boston from the 1920s into the 70s was a community of predominantly Italian and Irish ethnicity. Guess what my Dad was? Well he married a lovely lady with the last name of Kelly but her mom was a Lazzari, catch the vowel? Yea I know, I know what’s all this mean?
Well my dads favorite players were, in no particular order, guys named DiMaggio, Malzone, Petrocelli; get where I’m going? Oh and a kid named Conigliaro! The Conigliaro kid had local roots. Could it get any better than that? A local kid AND a vowel at the end of his name! So Dad and many others had a special affinity for this local who came to be known as “Conig” and “Tony C.”
He graduated in June of 1963 from St. Mary’s High School in Lynn Massachusetts (about 10 miles north of Boston). Drafted by the Red Sox he was sent immediately to Wellsville New York to the Red Sox “A” team in the New York Penn League. He hit an astonishing .363 with 24 home runs in just 83 games. On opening day April of 1964 in Yankee Stadium, he was the Red Sox starting center fielder at the age of 19!
Tony C. and Yaz
The next day the Red Sox were at Fenway for their home opener and when “Conig” stepped up to the plate in the second inning, he proceeded to hit what broadcaster Curt Gowdy called “a bomb’. It cleared everything in left and Tony Conigliaros magical mystery tour was underway.
By the end of the 1965 season, “Tony C” had become the youngest home run champ in baseball history. He was dashing, he was daring, and he was clutch. And did I mention,
He had it all!
In the Impossible Dream summer of 1967, Tony C. became the youngest man in American League history to hit 100 home runs.
Hit in the left eye with a Jack Hamilton “spitter” which got away from him, Conigliaro was done for the year, done for the following year and then came the reports that his career was probably over.
He was 22 years old…..
to be continued…..
And so it was on this date in Fenway Park history, January 7, 1945.