1990 | BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS • A life of such promise ended sadly at 4:30 in the afternoon on this date in 1990. Tony Conigliaro, the youngest player to hit 100 home runs died of pneumonia at the age of 45 [also see FEB 7th story]. “Tony C” as he was known, had been in poor health since suffering a heart attack in 1982.
The turning point in his life, though was 23 years earlier when he was on top of the world. On August 18, 1967, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Conigliaro wasn’t able to get out of the way of an inside fastball from Jack Hamilton of the California Angels. The ball hit him on the left side of his face nearly blinding him. He was out of baseball for over a year.
Conigliaro made a promising recovery in 1969. His blurred and double vision appeared to have cleared up. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 82. In 1970 he had the best year of his career – 36 home runs and 116 RBI, but by ’71 his vision had deteriorated again. He wasn’t able to play in ’72, ’73 or ’74. After an unsuccessful attempt at a comeback in 1975 he retired for good. He was 30.
A legacy of Tony Conigliaro’s beaning was players starting wearing helmets with flaps on the left side for right-handed hitters and the right side for left-handed hitters. Today such helmets are mandatory.
Associated Press (AP), Boston, Massachusetts, February 25, 1990