MLB Prospects: This Date in MLB Prospect Debuts (April 16): Tony Conigliaro, '64

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MLB Prospects: This Date in MLB Prospect Debuts (April 16): Tony Conigliaro, '64
Tony Conigliaro: What could have been.

Every morning, I will look back at a memorable MLB debut made on this specific date using information provided by Baseball Reference’s MLB Play Index.  

On April 16, 1964, 19-year-old Tony Conigliaro made his major league debut against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.  Starting in center field, Canigliaro grounded into a double play in his first career at-bat.

In his third at-bat, however, he singled, and he ultimately finished the game 1-for-5.  The following day, in the Red Sox home opener at Fenway Park, Conigliaro launched his first career home run over the Green Monster.

Notorious for fearlessly crowding the plate, Conigliaro suffered his first injury on May 24 of his rookie season, when he suffered a hairline fracture in his wrist after being struck by a pitch. On July 26 of the same season, he was hit by another pitch that broke his arm and sidelined the promising slugger for the next month. 

Still refusing to back off the plate despite the request of both his teammates and coaches, Conigliaro was hit in the face by a pitch on August 18, 1967.  The injury ended his season and presumably his career, as there was uncertainty about whether the right-handed hitter would ever regain the vision in his left eye.

After a failed attempt at a comeback as a pitcher in 1969, Conigliaro gave it a whirl again in later in the year as a hitter.  He went on to win the Comeback Player of the Year award after batting .255 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI while playing in 114 games. 

Conigliaro’s resurgence continued the following season, when he batted .266 with a career-best 36 home runs and 116 RBI.  However, he was traded to the California Angels in October, which devastated the Boston native.

Complaining of ongoing headaches and vision problems stemming from the hit by pitch, he retired from baseball following the Angels’ game on July 9.

Or maybe not.

Conigliaro made one more comeback in 1975, when he signed a contract with the Red Sox and made the team out of spring training.  In the team’s home opener on April 8, he singled in his first at-bat, and clocked his first home run of the season three days later.

However, he would last only 21 games—all as the designated hitter—before a demotion to Triple-A in mid-June permanently ended his career.

Conigliaro batted .264/.327/.466 with 166 home runs and 516 RBI in his eight-year career.

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