It will be 40 years ago today that Red Sox slugger and Boston legend Tony Conigliaro was hit below the left eye by a pitch from the California Angels’ Jack Hamilton, shattering his cheekbone, severely damaging his vision, and derailing a career that seemed destined to end in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
At the time, he was only 22, but was the youngest player in baseball to rack up 100 home runs. He still holds the MLB record for most home runs (25) hit by a teenage player.
A year and a half later, Conigliaro made a remarkable return, hitting 20 homers with 82 RBI in 141 games. It was the comeback that made him legendary.
In 1970, he reached career-high numbers in HRs (36) and RBI (116). After a stint with the Angels in 1971, he returned to the Red Sox briefly in 1975, but was forced to retire because his eyesight had been permanently damaged. He suffered permanent brain damage from the beaning.
On January 3, 1982 Conigliaro, in Boston to interview for a broadcasting position, suffered a heart attack while being driven to the airport by his brother Billy. Shortly thereafter, he suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. Conigliaro remained in basically a vegetative state until his death more than 8 years later. In February, 1990 he died in Salem, Massachusetts at 45-years-old.
Fenway Park features a new section of bleachers for the 2007 season, called ‘Conigliaro’s Corner’, in honor of him.