Tony Conigliaro was crushed by the trade to California. As strange as it may seem, this young, handsome, single, talented man did not mesh with southern California.
From the moment he arrived Tony struggled with the Angels. He was having trouble seeing the ball again, his headaches had returned in earnest and he was suffering nagging little “ding” type injuries. All of this was compounded by the fact that his heart, his home, his purpose remained 3000 miles east.
Billy and Tony Conigliaro June 4, 1971 pre-game at Fenway.
In early June, the Angels traveled to Fenway for a three game set. Tony was warmly greeted upon his returned and he went 3-10 for the series but his struggles componded and as his performance dipped, so to do his desire to continue.
Hitting .222 with just four home runs and 15 RBI, on July 9, 1971 he left the Angels and the game and returned home to Boston. His days as an Angel were over.
This had ramifications in the Red Sox clubhouse as well, as younger brother Billy in an emotional tirade accused Carl Yastrzemski of “getting rid of Ken Harrelson and Tony”. This would ultimately lead to his departure the following year.
As for Tony, an eye exam revealed that the “blind spot” had in fact expanded and his eyesight was once again deteriorating. However, his desire to play was not and in October of 1973, he contacted the Angels about trying to come back. They agreed but suggested a stint at AAA Salt Lake City to test the waters. Tony decided to stay on the voluntary retirement list. However his urge to give it one more go was building.
In late 1974 he wrote to Dick O’Connell the Red Sox GM and the man who had traded him; and asked for an opportunity to tryout for the 1975 squad. O’Connell agreed and Tony paid his own way to Winter Haven Florida and on March 5, 1975 Tony Conigliaro signed a contract with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
He had just turned 30, he’d been out of the game for four years, but he was Tony Conigliaro and there was still some magic left. That magic would unfold a little over a month later in Fenway Park!
to be continued…..
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, winter 1975.