Remembering Tony Conigliaro

Would Tony Conigliaro have been the difference in the 1967 World Series? (via Tom Vivian)

Nota del editor: Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

The pounding of my heart like stabs from a mobster. That old issue of Street and Smith magazine from the early 90’s. On the cover, an article on the “Impossible Dream” team of 1967. I asked the man in the newsstand for just a couple of minutes to read it. I was so excited, my fingers trembled. I almost dropped the magazine. There it was, the facts and the heroics of those cardiac kids. One of the paragraphs recreated a game from June 15th, 1967. Gary Waslewski  started for the Red Sox, Bruce Howard  for the White Sox. Waslewski allowed 6 hits in the first 9 innings. Howard 7 hits in 7 innings. Hoyt Wilhelm relieved Howard and kept the Red Sox shutout through the ninth. Extra-innings.

I couldn’t believe I had in my hands a testimony of the a picture I imagined as a little kid in 1967. I remember feeling the passion of my brothers when they talked about the Red Sox team that was upsetting everybody in the American League and everyday, every week, every month the experts were expecting them to drop back to their customary depths. We began to root secretly for them. We even started talking to the radio, asking the announcers to start believing in the Red Sox, because they were for real.

I hardly knew about baseball, I spent most of my time off flying paper planes, climbing mango, guava, soursop trees or running behind the trucks that drove to the sugar factory, trying to grab sugar cane sticks. But I had a hard time with math in third grade, so Mom said no more paper planes, trees and trucks. From two o’clock in the afternoon through six in the evening, she kept me studying math and everything else. I felt like a prisoner in a high security jail. After dinner, I had to show Mom the drills she had ordered at the end of the afternoon. The only hope of escape I could see from the desk and notebooks was the far away talk between Felipe and Jesus Mario. Despite not knowing anything about baseball, I could feel their emotions over that night’s game. In few seconds, I understood that would be my vehicle to freedom. I could listen to the radio Felipe kept in a corner of the bedroom.

In the tenth inning, Ron Hansen singles to left field, and Al Weis hit another one in the same spot. Ed Stroud came into the game as a pinch runner for Hansen. I read slowly to better digest the moment. John Wyatt relieved Waslewski. Stroud was thrown out at third by catcher Russ Gibson. Pete Ward pinch hit for Jerry McNertney and Wyatt struck him out. Dick Kenworthy pinch hit for Wilhelm and Wyatt struck him out, too.

I also felt a pounding in my chest when I read what happened in the top of the eleventh inning. The man in the newsstand asked me to return the magazine to the box from where I found it. He was complaining about my lack of respect. This was his business, if I wanted to read the magazine, I should buy it. I was so deep inside the reading, inside the game that all I heard was Walter Williams doubling to left.

I felt like it was 1967 again. My brothers decreased the volume of the radio each time there  was trouble for the Red Sox. Don Buford grounded out to first. Williams went to third base. I breathed deeply, looked at the stern expression at the man’s face and kept reading. Wyatt struck Tommie Agee out. My brothers jumped and asked Wyatt for the third out. Ken Berry cracked an RBI line drive to right field and afterwards was out trying to steal second base, from Russ Gibson to Rico Petrocelli. The newsstand guy yelled at me because of the way I was grabbing the magazine.

I spent a couple of minutes trying to flatten the magazines wrinkles. My shame matched by excitement at reliving the game.

That night, I had finally solved the math drills Mom wrote down. When I came into the bedroom I heard Dad asking Felipe questions about high school chemistry. At the bottom of the room Jesus Mario finished his math. Dad told them that he would be coming back to make sure they were studying. Felipe asked me to watch the door for Dad while they tuned in the ballgame. That night it was very hard to dial the game. There was a lot of static interference. Felipe finally got the radio at the tuning place, Jesus Mario raised his voice: “That’s it…that’s the place.”

I’d gotten distracted remembering my sprints behind the cane sugar trucks and Dad appeared like a monster. “What place are you talking about…” That meant extra study time for my brothers. Felipe looked at me with arrows in his eyes. Jesus Mario pressed his lips and gave me his back when I tried to get closer.  That was the first time I remained awake so late. I just wanted to apologize but they were upset with me.  The only word I remember from both of them once they ended the school work was “extrainning.” As soon as they turned on the radio they got surprised the Red Sox were still playing. The excitement they experienced when the announcer kept hollering “…it’s a long, tremendous, enormous shot to the green monster…the ball keeps going…going…” They started to jump on the mattress  and pulled me to celebrate with them. All their anger at me was forgotten. I kept listening to the radio, trying to understand the announcer’s excitement, trying to decipher Felipe’s shouting, trying to connect with Jesus Mario’s joy.

At the bottom of the eleventh inning, John Buzhardt retired Carl Yastrzemski on a pop up to Williams in right field. He also the second out when George Scott hit a line drive to Tom McCraw at first base.

I almost closed the magazine and left the newsstand. Then I remembered “Wait…this 1967…this is the Impossible Dream team.”  Joe Foy’s base hit to left field kept me there. I suspected something unexpected was coming on.

The image of that Bostonian night impressed me with all its colors. Fenway Park’s lights burned the corners of the pages. The ones who have experienced an extra-innings at Fenway know about the atmosphere. A sea of raised arms and shouts bubbled over thousands of shirts and hats. All this floated against the green background from the outfield and the infield.

No matter how much the newsstand guy coughed and kicked his shoes against the floor while standing at the counter, my eyes kept immersed into the soul of that extrainning. I felt that a mixture essence of camphor and cherries whirled around the third base dugout.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

I had to grab and pull the magazine three times. He was mad. He hit the counter four times. So I took out my wallet and gave him a bill. He almost pushed me out from the place. “This is not a library. Go to read elsewhere!”

Meanwhile I looked through a telescope, pieces of words from the magazine: Conigliaro…long shot…mammoth…enormous…green monster…screen…unbelievable…walk off homer…the Red Sox did it again…his teammates took him on their shoulders… this is an unforgettable night here at Fenway… it will pass a hundred years and people always will talk about Tony C hitting that dinger to beat the White Sox 2-1.

The rest of that day I kept smiling. I didn’t care that people looked at me strangely. That magazine had made me remember what my brothers said that night. “This Red Sox team is for real…they are going to win the American League pennant and the World Series…” Even I looked at them in a very rare way. That was insane. It wasn’t even half season. There was still a long, long way to go.

At the end of September, I had to recognize they were right in their prediction. When the World Series ended I thought for many days that with Tony Conigliaro in the lineup the Red Sox would have won it all. My brothers told me that Bob Gibson was really unhittable. But I kept saying that with Tony C it would have been a different World Series. And I still think so.


Print This Post
Alfonso L. Tusa is a chemical technician and writer from Venezuela. His work has been featured in El Nacional, Norma Editorial and the Society for American Baseball Research, where he has contributed to several books and published several entries for the SABR Bio Project. He has written several novellas and books and contributed to others, including Voces de Beisbol y Ecología and Pensando en tí Venezuela. Una biografía de Dámaso Blanco. Follow him on Twitter @natural30.

Leave a Reply

22 Comments on "Remembering Tony Conigliaro"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dennis Bedard
Guest
Dennis Bedard
They may have had an easier time winning the pennant but Tony C’s making a difference in the WS is doubtful. That series was really Lonborg vs Gibson with Gibson winning game 7. Tusa brings back a practice I engaged in regularly but had almost forgotten about: freeloading off the local newsstand dealer. This was the pre-internet, pre-cable, pre-color TV(at least for those families who could not afford one) era. If you wanted to read about sports beyond the local paper, you had to pay for it. Or stand in front of the magazine rack at the local 5 &… Read more »
Scott
Guest
Scott

If the Red Sox had an easier time winning the pennant, how would that have affected the World Series? There would have been no need for Lonborg to pitch on the last day of the season, no need for the team to plan for a possible one game playoff against the Tigers. But Lonborg wasn’t as good as Gibson that year, and would the Sox have been able to beat him in game 1 or 4? Given that the Sox won the two games that Lonborg started, they might have lost the series earlier.

Rainy Day Women 12x35
Guest
Rainy Day Women 12x35

If you’re referring to the 1967 regular season, Lonborg was better than Gibson. Mainly because Gibson broke his leg (line drive off Clemente’s bat, he stayed in and pitched a complete game!) and missed a good chunk of it, while Lonborg won 22 and the Cy Young.

Bob Radermecher
Guest

Great finish that year.We twins fans lost the pennant to the Red Sox on the final week.
I recall Eddie Stankys White Sox where in it,and Al Kaline and the Tigers blew a DH to the Angels,and barely missed the pennant.
That was on e of the greatest AL seasons I can ever remember.
Tony C could have made a diffence,you can never tell.
Gibson was still very tough.

Steve G
Guest
Steve G

Thanks for that article. Tony Conigliaro was my hero then, and is my favorite to this day. Stories like this make me smile.

franc sfutia
Guest
franc sfutia

what a great read.. thanks very much!.

..i was 6 months old during the ’67 series, but a Reds fan… 🙂

87 Cards
Guest
87 Cards

Tony C…the youngest AL player to reach 100 home runs (22 years, 132 days; 50-years ago this month)….Mel Ott beat him by 65 days for the all-time mark (22 years, 197 days).

Mike Trout was 23-years-and-change for his centennial circuit clout.

Philip
Guest
Philip
Scott asked: Scott said… “If the Red Sox had an easier time winning the pennant, how would that have affected the World Series?” Aside from any butterflies, here’s how: Longborg starts against Gibson in game 1 with the same rest he had in game 2. Santiago isn’t batting against Gibson, so he doesn’t homer. Longborg shutouts the Cards for 9 innings; Gibson does the same to the Sox. Or does he? Maybe Tony makes the difference in the game? Or maybe Yaz hits a homer in the extra innings. Santiago wins game 2, the Red Sox offense in game 2… Read more »
GFrankovich
Guest
GFrankovich

Ken Harrelson, who also played right field during the Series, went 1 for 13. 3 for 26 from the main rightfielders in the 67 WS.

Jetsy Extrano
Guest
Jetsy Extrano

Wonderful piece of writing. Long before my time, but you make me imagine it wasn’t.

Rainy Day Women 12x35
Guest
Rainy Day Women 12x35

Unfortunately, my last memory of Tony C was, I think, from 1971, he was with the Angels by then and struck out 7 or 8 times in a marathon game, seems like it went 18-19 innings. He was so visibly frustrated. I was only 14 but I felt awful for him, that this formerly great player was no longer able to see the ball well enough to play at that level. This is all from memory and I may have a detail wrong, but his frustration and great angst was obvious.

Ptodd
Guest
Ptodd
I was 10 in 1967. Tony C was my favorite player. I still remember watching him get hit by Jack Hamilton on TV. Tony crowded the plate and got hit a lot. A couple of days later that famous picture came out and the news was glum. I had to focus on Yaz the rest if the way but you always had Tony C in mind. I am sure that event led to his premature death. It was sad. He did make a short comeback but the vision was not what it was. His stats benefited from some rule changes… Read more »
Dennis Bedard
Guest
Dennis Bedard

Lonborg better than Gibson in ’67? Maybe the numbers were but ask yourself if you had one game to win and all the marbles were on the line, who would you want standing on that mound?

Tom H
Guest
Tom H

not Gibson in the 68 WS game 7 🙂
kidding a little, but while Gibson had great post-season moments, his rep as super-clutch is overblown (based on <10 games), like Jack Morris' and others.

Rainy Day Women 12x35
Guest
Rainy Day Women 12x35

won’t argue that….I don’t think his rep as a big game pitcher is “overblown”, either, just that in ’67, as you said, Lonborg was better. Off the top of my head, the only guys I might argue for over Gibson (based solely on the post-season records) to win 1 game is Bumgarner or Mathewson.

Philip
Guest
Philip
Dennis Bedard said… Lonborg better than Gibson in ’67? Maybe the numbers were but ask yourself if you had one game to win and all the marbles were on the line, who would you want standing on that mound? Who said that? I sure didn’t. What I said was that if Gibson is going to presumably still hold the Red Sox scoreless in game one thru 9 innings (unless Conigliaro puts one over the wall) who would I prefer be on the mound against him? To perhaps get that game into extra innings where the Red Sox could hit against… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip

Edit:

“To perhaps get that game into extra innings where the Red Sox could hit against a tiring Gibson or the Cardinals ***** bullpen ***** ? “

Rainy Day Women 12x35
Guest
Rainy Day Women 12x35

BTW…..I know you didn’t say it…..but why would anyone say the Cards’ pen was awful in ’67? Joe Hoerner was solid…..Nelson Briles pitched 35 times in relief and won 14 games with a 2.43 ERA…..and Al Jackson had been freed from his Mets prison and performed very nicely if not spectacularly. Even little known Ron Willis pitched well, appeared in 65 games with a 2.67 ERA while going 6-5. Seems like a pretty good, pretty deep pen, and this doesn’t even go into possibly using one of their other 4 starting pitchers to start the 10th.

Fan's Commish
Guest
Fan's Commish
I listened to that game in 1967. The count was 0-2 and then Tony C. took three straight pitches. Each one Ned Martin said was closer than the other. When he hit the home run, I jumped out of bed and ran to the living room and yelled, “The Red Sox won!” My mother said, “Good, now go to sleep.” I had been listening to every game for ten years, and 1967 was the first time they ever won. I went to the last game against the Twins, and then my father took me without any tickets to games 1,6,… Read more »
Marc Schneider
Guest
Marc Schneider
FYI, MLB Network is doing a show on The Impossible Dream team on Sunday at 8:30. I’m not a Red Sox fan, but I remember listening to the World Series while at school (sneaking in radios was part of the ritual). Reading this article brings back memories of actual pennant races and day World Series games that didn’t last until the wee hours of the morning. Re Gibson’s reputation as a big game pitcher. It’s primarily built on Game 7 in 1964 when he actually game up 5 runs), 1967, and Game 1 in 1968. He was, of course, a… Read more »
Rainy Day Women 12x35
Guest
Rainy Day Women 12x35

Marc Schneider-Have to disagree, look at the stats. Started 9 games, threw 8 complete games (!), 7-2 record with a 1.89 ERA, WHIP of 0.889. 10.2 K/9. If that’s not a big game pitcher, I don’t know what is.

GFrankovich
Guest
GFrankovich

A few years ago I replayed this WS using the Strat-O-Matic Super Advanced Game, with Conigliaro in the lineup.
The good news, Conigliaro batted .500 with 3 homers and 6 RBI’s. The bad news, the Cardinals won the Series in 5 games. Didn’t help that Yastrezemski went 4 for 18. It was fun to play out – and make you wonder how he would have done in real life.

wpDiscuz