Boston Red Sox: 30 Greatest Players in Team History

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29: Tony Conigliaro, OF (1964-1970, 1975)

One of the most exciting young players of his era, Tony Conigliaro made his big league debut with the Red Sox as a fresh-face 19-year-old in 1964. He immediately burst onto the scene as a rookie that season, hitting .290/.354/.530 with 24 home runs. Those 24 bombs set an MLB record that still stands of the most home runs hit by a player in their teenage years.

Conigliaro’s sophomore campaign was even more impressive, as he led the league in home runs with 32, becoming the young player to lead the league in home runs. In 1967, at the ripe age of 22, Conigliaro hit his 100th career home run, becoming the youngest American League player to reach the milestone, a record that still stands today.

Later that season, the Red Sox emerging star was hit on the left cheekbone with a pitch by Jack Hamilton of the California Angles. The pitch broke Conigliaro’s cheekbone, dislocated his jaw and gave him serious vision issues.His baseball career was immediately put in jeopardy.

Conigliaro missed the rest of the 1967 season and the entirety of the 1968 season, before making his triumphant return in 1969. Despite vision issues, Conigliaro hit .255/.321/.427 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI. He was named the Comeback Player of the Year for his efforts in 1969, and backed that up with an even better 36 home run, 116 RBI performance in 1970.

Conigliaro had an unsuccessful stint with the Angels in 1971, and did not play for three seasons before signing back with the Red Sox in 1975 as a designated hitter. Late in his career, the vision issues Conigliaro suffered from his accident proved to be too much to overcome, and he was forced to retire.

He had the skills to become a legitimate Hall of Fame type player, but obstacles proved too much for him to truly reach his potential. That said, Conigliaro’s comeback after the injury is an inspiration to all, which is the MLB now gives out the Tony Conigliaro Award.

The award is given to the player in Major League Baseball who “overcomes an obstacle and adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination, and courage that were trademarks of Conigliaro.”

Next: Number 28