A while back, someone (I think it was Johnny Cabrera), mentioned that I should create a 1975 Tony Conigliaro card.
Well, what I decided to do was design a 1976 "Career Capper" card for the former Red Sox slugger who had both a tragic baseball career, and life in general.
Take a look:
Let me tell you, trying to find a usable image of Tony during his handful of 1975 games (with the Red cap the Red Sox featured that year) was a tough one. I found an image and had to "play" with it for a while to make it happen here.
I was really hoping for an in-game image of him that season. Oh well, if I ever find one I'll redo this card.
We all know the story: "Tony C" was a budding star in the big leagues, leading the league in homers at the young age of 20 in 1965 and building on a career that was making the homegrown player a Boston darling.
But in 1967 he was hit in the face by a Jack Hamilton pitch that permanently derailed his career, eventually playing a single year for the Angels in 1971 before leaving the game for three years before making a dramatic "comeback" in 1975.
That season he appeared in only 21 games, good for 69 plate appearances. But it was an emotional return of sorts for Conigliaro, even if it would be the last games of his career, forcing him to retire at the age of 30.
Since he actually appeared in those final games during the 1975 season, I figured a 1976 card for him was more appropriate.
It is easy to forget that after his beaning in 1967, and missing all of 1968, Conigliaro came back and posted a remarkable return season in 1969, hitting 20 homers, driving in 82, and taking home the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
1970 was even more incredible, as he swatted a career high 36 home runs, while driving in 100+ for the only time in his career (116)!
Sadly because of the beaning he suffered eye-troubles and was never the same again, and he was traded to the California Angels with pitcher Ray Jarvis and catcher Jerry Moses for Doug Griffin, Jarvis Tatum and Ken Tatum.
As if that wasn't enough for the poor guy, the true tragedy of the Tony Conigliaro story would be in 1982, when he was about to interview for a broadcasting job in Boston and suffered a catastrophic stroke, leaving him in a vegetative state until his death eight years later in 1990.
Really a sad story that leaves you with the "what if's" of the sports world…