Shock, then resolve for ’67 Red Sox after Tony Conigliaro beaned

FROM MERLIN ARCHIVE DO NOT RESEND TO LIBRARY   Tony Conigliaro in Sancta Maria Hospital,  after being hit by pitch, 1967  -- Library Tag 08182006 Sports           Library Tag 08162007
Tony Conigliaro in Sancta Maria Hospital after being hit by pitch. –Merlin Archive

This is the third part in a series about the Red Sox Impossible Dream season and the Summer of 1967 in Boston. Learn more about this project.

TONY CONIGLIARO COULDN’T WAIT to bat in the fourth inning, anticipating a fastball over the plate, seeing himself smash it back up the middle. He’d been in a hurry his whole life, a baby nicknamed “Choo-choo” for his high-energy crawling, a 4-year-old who begged his mother to tie his shoes each morning so he could spend all day at the park, tossing a ball and swinging a broomstick.

He was still in a rush at 19 in his first spring training with the Sox, when Ted Williams praised him but called him just a kid, still “two years away.” Except Conigliaro played so well he cracked the ’64 starting lineup, then homered on the first pitch he saw at Fenway Park.


Now he was 22, an All-Star and fourth-year veteran, finally playing for a winner and enjoying the best season of his career, with accomplishments that already foretold Cooperstown (youngest home run champ ever, at 20 in 1965; youngest in American League history to reach 100 homers, just that past month).

Sure, he had been in a little slump — but he could feel himself shaking it, making him especially eager to bat here now on Friday, Aug. 18, 1967, during a night game at Fenway, scoreless in the fourth.

The team had been scuffling a little, too, after coming within a half-game of first, and manager Dick Williams had slid Conigliaro from cleanup to fifth, now down to sixth. Trying to jumpstart himself, Conigliaro had adopted a lighter bat, crowding the plate even more than usual, glaring back at even the toughest pitchers. And he kept swinging, never looking for a walk.

He’d been torrid in July, batting .424 with four homers during the 10-game streak that launched the Sox into contention; he needed to produce again down the stretch. That’s what the world-weary writers said, too, that Tony, Yaz, and pitching ace Jim Lonborg needed to stay healthy and hot for Boston to have any shot.

Now, just as Conigliaro was emerging from the dugout to enter the on-deck circle, some wiseguy in the grandstand tossed a smoke bomb into left.

A thick plume rose, spreading over the field. And Choo — that’s what his family called him these days — had to wait an extra 10 minutes to bat.

From up in Section 14, his youngest brother, Richie — who worshiped him at 15, enduring white-knuckle rides in Tony’s Corvette to come in early with him to every home game — thought the lingering wisps over the field gave Fenway an odd look. But Tony was picturing only the fastball he expected Jack Hamilton to start him with over the plate, after he’d singled on a curve last time up.

Crouched below him, catcher Bob Rodgers called for the fastball — but a little inside, seeing how Conigliaro was crowding the strike zone. As the pitcher rocked back, Tony had one more thought — I wonder if Hamilton’s arm stiffened up during the delay — before the ball rocketed toward him.

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