Baseball is made up of moments and Tony Conigliaro had many.
Moments that Conigliaro, who use to shag fly balls at Noyes Park as a player for East Boston Little League, could have only dreamed of.
The Boston Red Sox drafted the Eastie native in 1962 and he quickly distinguished himself as a player with raw talent and ability.
In 1964 then Red Sox manager, Johnny Pesky, invited him to spring training and saw an explosion of capability from the young minor leaguer.
“He was the best looking young player I had ever seen,” Pesky recalled in a 2002 interview with the East Boston Times.
The dream he had dreamt so many times under the hot sun, playing ball in Eastie was fast becoming reality.
Now came the moments.
In his first at-bat in Fenway Park, Conigliaro cranked out his first Major League home run over the Green Monster.
In 1965 he became the youngest player to win the American League home run title with 32 at the age of 20.
And at the ripe old age of 22 he became the youngest American League player ever to hit 100 career home runs.
He was young, good looking, vibrant, gifted.
For three-and-a-half seasons the young local hero dazzled fans at Fenway and brought them to their feet time and time again.
But it was one moment on August 18, 1967 that didn’t bring the fans to their feet with cheers but with stunned, breathless horror.
A 90-mile-per-hour fast ball had slipped from Jack Hamilton’s hand, hitting Conigliaro in the left eye, fracturing his cheekbone, dislocating his jaw and damaging his retina-sidelining him for the rest of the 1967 season and the entire 1968 season.
It was a moment some baseball historians and Red Sox fans feel Conigliaro never recovered from.
Now 45 years after that fateful pitch and 22 years after his untimely death at the age of 45 the Conigliaro family is keeping the family’s baseball tradition alive.
The Conigliaro family was in Lynn Friday night when the North Shore Navigators invited the Nahant Little League Minor League champion Athletics team to take part in pre-game festivities at Manning Field.
The Athletics have two young players on their roster whose names are sure to bring chills of excitement to any Boston Red Sox fan who followed the team in the 1960s and 1970s. The players are 11-year-old Tony Conigliaro II and 8-year-old Billy Conigliaro II, the sons of Richie Conigliaro and Darlene Conigliaro.
Tony II and Billy II are the nephews of Billy Conigliaro, who played for the Boston Red Sox and won a world championship with the 1973 Oakland Athletics, and the late Tony Conigliaro, who is still the youngest player in American League history to reach 100 home runs.