Forty-six years ago tonight I remember climbing into bed at whatever time 9 year olds went to bed back then, and twisting the timer nob on my pale green colored AM clock radio so that I could fall asleep to the melodious voices of Ken Coleman and Ned Martin calling that evening’s Red Sox game. As I dozed off I remember that one of the visiting California Angels hit a fly ball to right field that was caught by – – – Jose Tartabull. Jose Tartabull? What was he doing playing right field? Where was Tony Conigliaro?
Soon one of the announcers gave “an update on Tony Conigliaro’s condition.” He had been hit in the face with a fastball and had been carried off the field on a stretcher. In 1967 there was no internet, no Twitter, no YouTube, no SportsCenter. It never even occurred to me to get up to see a replay. I relied on the words of the radio announcers and a story and photos in the next morning’s Globe (speaking of which, Bob Ryan has an excellent story about Tony C in today’s paper which includes the above photo).
The season before the Red Sox had finished last. In 1967 they were more than competitive; they were very good. The team was young and exciting and all of New England followed them closely. They soon obtained Ken Harrelson to replace Tony C in right field and they went on to win the American League pennant although they lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games several of which we listened to in school on the radio because in 1967 the World Series was still played in daylight. Tony C returned to baseball in 1969 and hit a lot of home runs, but he was never the player he was before being struck that night, a night that I’ll always remember.