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.