Remembering Tony Conigliaro the Sportscaster

This is  a guest post from Michael Passanisi.

Forty-five years ago this spring, a 19-year old kid from Swampscott made it fun to be a Sox fan again, at least for a few years. Most fans remember that Tony C has passed away, but how many remember his up-and-down broadcast career and the terrible effects of his heart attack and brain damage that made his last eight years a living hell for Tony and his family?

To be sure, Tony is remembered as a man who, in the words of author David Cataneo in his excellent 1997 book Tony C: The Triumph and Tragedy of Tony Conigliaro, had a lot of both in his life. Nearly every Sox fan knows about his 1967 beaning. They also remember his aborted comebacks, his controversial trade to the Angels three years later, and his final retirement in 1975. But the story doesn’t end there.

A year after his retirement from baseball, Conigliaro began work as a sports reporter for KGO-TV in San Francisco. Cataneo’s book describes his early problems in broadcasting: “He was immediately branded just another jock enthusing about the scores. He was terrible. He spoke in clichés. He always seemed harried. His malaprops made him uncomfortable to watch….his Boston accent, charming to fans from Charlestown and Waltham and Worcester in the Fenway stands, made northern Californians cover their ears.”

Things then improved for a while. “Not surprisingly”, continues Cataneo, “he wasn’t smooth, but he came across as honest and genuine. He had a good rapport with athletes. The anchor work remained rough, but his features got better, eventually good enough to learn a local Emmy.” Though being homesick, as he always seemed to be, for his family, he was enough of a celebrity to be recognized and continue to date attractive women. He also befriended a man named Satch Hennessey, who was also touched by tragedy; his wife and young daughter would both die of cancer. Interestingly, he also became more religious. “I was given a lot of athletic ability,” Cataneo quotes him as saying…”if I don’t know where it came from it doesn’t mean much.”

By 1980, however, his life was going downhill again. KGO fired him, apparently because the station wanted a workaholic who would give “110 percent”. Another station, KRON, which had hired Tony as basically a weekend sports anchor and feature broadcaster, brought in a new news director, who let him go. That, unfortunately, was the end of his broadcasting career.

Tony’s last chance came in January, 1982, when he wanted to try out for an opening as Red Sox color commentator.. However, WSBK, which broadcast the Sox at that time, had a GM who Cataneo calls “a non-New Englander who had been nowhere near Kenmore Square in the summer of 1967”., This man apparently thought no one remembered him anymore. He might have changed his mind, but just two days later Tony suffered his massive heart attack.

Though Cataneo did an excellent job of describing Tony’s post-1975 years, many newspapers seem today to gloss over the suffering that Conigliaro went through between his heart attack and his death in 1990. This includes articles two years ago on the 40th anniversary of the Impossible Dream season, in which Tony played a big part before his injury.

An example of some writers’ description of Conigliaro’s post-baseball years is in the 2004 book Reversing the Curse about the Sox’s first World Series win since 1918. The only mention of Tony is that he “suffered a major heart attack and died at the age of 45 in 1990”. Given the interest in him in his playing days, more might have been said, and while his tragedy was a personal one and not connected to baseball in general, that description does not seem enough.

All the details of the sufferings of Tony and his family during his last years need be mentioned here, but his brother Billy, in the forward to Cataneo’s book, sums it up by saying that “nobody expected that the struggle of a professional athlete would, just a few years later, be exceeded by an all-out fight just to exist on the earth as a normal human being.” By 1990, most of Tony’s relatives were praying that he would soon be put out of his misery. Their prayers were answered on February 24 of that year.

Today, Conigliaro is memorialized in the Conigliaro Gym at his alma mater, St Mary’s High in Lynn, by the major league Comeback Player of the Year Award, and a few other commemorations of his life, such as “Conig’s Corner” in Fenway Park. But the Sox have not retired his number 25. Tony made a lasting impression on Boston baseball, and his entire life should be remembered.

Related link:

Jim O’Brien – The Forgotten Coach? – also by Passanisi.

Sox Earn Series Split With Twins Behind Beckett

It’s an early morning today, so only partial links for today. The only links below are the ones that were posted when I wrote this. Check back later this morning for a guest post looking back at Tony Conigliaro’s largely forgotten sportscasting career…

The Red Sox got seven strong innings from Josh Beckett, and a pair of solo home runs yesterday afternoon as they defeated the Minnesota Twins, 3-2 in the Metrodome. Daniel Barbarisi notes that this was a battery-powered win for the Red Sox. Barbarisi looks at both managers and both catchers getting ejected in the seventh inning yesterday. Barbarisi’s Red Sox journal reports that Rocco Baldelli is still dealing with hamstring issues that may be related to his rare cellular disorder.

Check for the rest of the coverage this morning.


As expected, Tom Brady was the center of attention in Foxboro yesterday. He spoke with the media as a group for the first time since his injury, and was with them for quite some time. Since there were 96 media credentials issued for yesterday, there were a lot of questions to answer.

Bob Ryan says that it is clear that football is still Brady’s # 1 priority. Karen Guregian says that on the field, it looked like just another day of Patriots practice. Shalise Manza Young says Brady couldn’t be happier about being back out on the field. Jim Donaldson has Brady bringing the media circus back to Foxboro. Greg Bishop says that Brady’s work yesterday is a good sign for the Patriots. Albert Breer though, feels that it is time to dump a bucket of water on Patriots fans.

Mike Petraglia has Wes Welker saying that it is exciting for the Patriots to be getting their best player back. Mike Reiss and Christopher Price take a few notes from the OTA workouts. Young’s Patriots journal speculates that the absence of Vince Wilfork could be tied to his unhappiness with his contract situation. Michael Hurley says that Brady wasn’t the only story in Foxboro yesterday. Tony Massarotti is giddy at the possibility of a Wilfork salary holdout.

Get the rest of the Patriots coverage at

Twitter Updates for BSMW on 2009-05-28

Will The A.L. East Soon Be Out Of Reach?

The Rays are in Wait ‘Til Last Year mode, the Jays have come back to earth, and the O’s as usual are six feet under the earth. Looks like another Red Sox vs. Yanks dogfight for the East, as both are in a virtual tie going into action this afternoon. Not so bad for a Sox team with so many issues says Boston Sports Blog, which grades the first third of the season. But with the Yankees playing up to their payroll and the Boston lineup riddled with holes, this may be fictional Bill’s last chance to enjoy the rarified air of first on The Soxaholix, so let’s not begrudge him the moment. BTW, catch Soxaholix creator Hart Brachen during the Web Sox Nation segment of Comcast Sportsnet’s The Baseball Show this Saturday (airs 9:55 AM, re-airs 12:55 PM).

From questionable starters to yeoman relievers, from walk-off homers to LOBs that are approaching the population of Arkansas during the American Idol finale, it’s been a half-glass effort by the Sox this season and Cursed To First is taking inventory. Red Sox Reality Check says a change of stripes may be in order.

Jon Lester has been more like four-fifths full, but that last fifth has been a doozie. Boston Red Thoughts can’t figure out “Bad Inning” Lester. The House That Dewey Built is pleading the 5th on behalf of Lester. Over The Monster says Lester’s numbers aren’t all that bad . . . if you remove his worst inning each outing. Then again, the Lincolns’ outing wasn’t all that bad if you remove that Wilkes Booth interruption. El Guapo’s Ghost says it’s not the big inning that’s killing Lester.

Red Sox Monster says it’s Three Stooges times two lately, with six wild pitches thrown by Dice-K & Co. last night. Like all of The Nation, Boston Dirt Dogs is being driven wild by Matsuzaka. Justin Masterson considers himself lucky to be part of a record-tying night of wildness.

Clearing The Bases has John Smoltz victorious even before he took the mound in Manchester on Tuesday night. One If By Land reminds us that Smoltz’s return comes a day after Brad Penny becomes eligible trade bait. Keep Your Sox On says Penny packaged with a young prospect would be appealing to San Diego. Really? Hell, I’d make a nice package for the Padres if Daniel Bard was thrown in. So, what would said package return? Touching All The Bases thinks Adrian Gonzalez would look good hitting third – or sixth or anywhere else that Ortiz presently is – in the lineup. The Bottom Line looks at catchers that could be had for Penny or Clay Buchholtz. With the Del Carmen-for-Nick Johnson rumors still swirling, Hacks With Haggs has Manny intent on finishing his career in Boston. On the other hand, Sox Therapy would gladly send MDC to DC. Eric Ortiz wants to put the pitching bottleneck to use in strengthening the team’s weak link at shortstop, while Lou Merloni considers keeping everyone by employing a six-man rotation.

Sox & Dawgs is leading this year’s All-Star Get Out And Vote campaign, and they have a surprising request for your NL ballot at LF. Nor are they the only ones, as Fenway West reports on the movement to embarrass Bud Selig. Surviving Grady revels in Youkbacca’s lead over the Bronx Bazillionaire at first base.

The Sox managed to unite both Yankee and Met halves of Subway Squawkers, who delighted in Jonathan Papelbon’s weekend meltdown on the mound and in the dugout. Not as delighted is Sox and the City, who’s peeved that good looks alone couldn’t score her some free tix to Yankee Stadium.

Better Red Than Dead has Jacoby Ellsbury climbing the learning curve but still needing more plate discipline. And only months after Curt Schilling shut down his baseball career, it feels like he’s doing the same on 38 Pitches as well with another bracket post. Can someone tell Curt it’s not March anymore?


It’s all about the QB as Patriots Gab has Tom Brady’s return to the field at the first of four scheduled OTAs. WGS Patriots Blog has today the first day of the next ten years of Tom Brady’s life. Kathryn Tappen‘s main goal is to avoid be trampled with today’s media frenzy surrounding Brady’s return. Good luck says Mark Farinella, who’d rather take in a high school baseball game. Try as they might, Pats Pulpit cannot resist reporting on the most watched knee in the history of sports. The Patriot Act is not so much worried about the returning Brady’s ability between the lines as his temperament between the ears.

PatriotsBlog has newly-signed LB Paris Lenon as some Bruschi insurance, while Reiss’s Pieces thinks Lenon may become a core member of special teams. It Is What It Is speculates on recently-released Cowboys OLB Greg Ellis as the Jason Taylor consolation prize. And NESN’s New England Patriots blog has Terrence Wheatley the senior guy in a whole new crop of CBs.

The P-Bruins’ loss to Hershey on Monday night marked the official end of winter in New England, so we’ll put the B’s and C’s on the back shelf for now. Bloggers, please drop in on me at if I’m missing anything over the summah. In the meantime, get out and get some sun. You’ve earned it.

Sox Out In The Wild

The Red Sox uncorked a modern record tying six wild pitches last night, but ultimately it wasn’t the reason for their 4-2 loss to the Twins, giving up 13 hits and five walks was probably more responsible.

Amalie Benjamin has a look at the wild night behind the plate for George Kottaras, who at times had to play the role of a hockey goalie. Michael Silverman has Daisuke Matsuzaka leading the charge with four wild pitches and sinking to 0-3 on the season. Daniel Barbarisi has the entire Red Sox staff getting Rick Ankiel disease.

Nick Cafardo says that Kottaras should not be blamed for the loss. Michael Silverman says that catching Tim Wakefield is easy compared to what Kottaras had to deal with last night. Barbarisi has the Kottaras-Matsuzaka battery setting records it would rather avoid last night.

Buddy Thomas says that David Ortiz might only cease to be a problem for the Red Sox when it is too late. McAdam also examines Jon Lester’s struggles. Barbarisi has Jacoby Ellsbury extending his hitting streak to 22 games. Mike Petraglia takes the reigns on aka

Benjamin’s notebook has Jason Bay set to get a day off today. Silverman’s notebook has Jason Bay’s multi-run homer streak coming to an end. Barbarisi’s Red Sox journal has Kottaras with his hands full with Dice-K.


All eyes will be on Foxboro today as the media gets a glimpse of Tom Brady and the Patriots taking part in their OTA’s.

Karen Guregian and John Tomase say that all eyes will be on Brady today. Mike Reiss wonders if Vince Wilfork will be in attendance, or if the massive nose tackle will sit out as a message in his (non-existent) contract talks with the Patriots. Reiss also says Brady will be the focus today.

Mark Farinella has the Patriots signing linebacker Paris Lenon. Christopher Price has more on Lenon. Rich Garven has backup QB Kevin O’Connell getting himself prepared to be Brady’s # 2. Adam Smartschan has five keys to the 2009 Patriots.

Michael Felger has his latest mailbag.

Fluto Shinzawa and Stephen Harris has the Jacobs family speaking about the Bruins season. Joe Haggerty also has a story.

Twitter Updates for BSMW on 2009-05-27

  • Cold Hard Football Facts looks at Tom Brady’s lost season – and plays a lot of “What ifs” – #
  • BSMW Network Post: Book Review – It Was Never About The Babe #
  • Jon Couture’s Red Sox Reloaded for Game 46, a 5-2 Minnesota Twins victory – #
  • RT Newest Patriot linebacker Lenon ‘a real pro’ via @capeleaguer #
  • RT via @benmaller Returning to sports radio next week. Filling in on WEEI for Mike Adams on “Planet Mikey.” 6-11pm Mon, Tue and Thu! #
  • RT via @realpatriots Check for OTA updates, including photos from today’s practice. #
  • BSMW Network Post: Lester Falters Again in Loss to Twins #
  • BSMW Network Post: Twitter Updates for BSMW on 2009-05-26 #

Book Review – It Was Never About The Babe

Disclaimer – I’m quoted a few times in the pages of this book.

It Was Never About the Babe: The Red Sox, Racism, Mismanagement, and the Curse of the Bambino

When the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and ended 86 years of heartache, something else came to an end as well. Dan Shaughnessy’s gravy train, the “The Curse of the Bambino” (now available for as little as $0.01 on Amazon!) also came to a screeching halt. Shaughnessy had even tried to make the “Curse” into a kids book. (The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino) He then tried to capitalize one last time on his creation by writing Reversing the Curse following the long awaited World Series victory.

Of course, there never was any “curse”, and Jerry Gutlon, like many others was annoyed at the many inaccuracies that were out there regarding the Red Sox and Babe Ruth’s exit from the team.

So he set out to correct them, as well as to tell the real reasons why the Red Sox went 86 years between World Series victories. The result is a concise season-by-season summary of the Red Sox from 1901 up until the present. Some of the material is familiar to diehard fans, some of the information might be new to you. The details surrounding Babe Ruth’s departure from the team, for instance, are more complicated than you might’ve been led to believe. (Hint – it’s certainly not as simple as Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needing cash to fund No, No, Nanette as the “Curse” would have you believe.)

The “dirty little secret” of the sale of Babe Ruth is that American League President Ban Johnson was trying to force Frazee out of baseball. Frazee sold Ruth because Johnson was forcing him into financial ruin. Why? Because Johnson was anti-semitic and (mistakenly) thought Frazee was Jewish. The press supported Johnson in this in part because Frazee had taken away the traditional free liquor and food for the media.

Here is a quick Q&A session with Gutlon:

What will Red Sox fans learn from your book that they didn’t know before?

Many of the facts in this book will prove to be revelations. The institutional racism practiced by the franchise is mind blowing, along with the fact that during the Yawkey regime alcohol fueled many of the decisions made by Red Sox management.

What role did racism play in the 86 years the Red Sox failed to win a championship?

The team institutionalized racism and was the last to integrate. They passed on signing Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Sam Jethroe, who could’ve revolutionalized Red Sox baseball. To have owner Tom Yawkey declare “We’ll sign a black ballplayer when we find one who meets our standards” was simply irresponsible.

Is it true that legendary Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey owned a brothel?

That’s got to be the strangest aspect of the entire Yawkey saga. In 1934, Yawkey actually bought a whorehouse located in Florence, South Carolina, and moved it to Georgetown, South Carolina, where he had his estate. It operated until 1969, under its Madam, Hazel Weiss. The bordello was internationally known.

What is present management doing right now — that was not done before?

Present management combines a scientific approach to baseball with a modicum of instinctive sense. The Sox no longer are governed by whim and fancy, but by pragmatism. They’re entirely colorblind. I know the almightly martini no longer fuels the front office decisions and personnel. And they’re not afraid to spend money – wisely.

Gutlon is critical of the Yawkey regime, of the complicit press and of the yes-men employed for decades by the franchise. Chapter 19 – “A Failure to Communicate” is devoted to the failure of the media over the years, and according to Gutlon, his publisher actually cut quite a bit out of that chapter. He also claims that “Dan Shaughnessy ignored repeated requests for interviews for this book.”

The book went into a second printing the week it was released, and a third is in production right now. A few minor factual errors have been corrected, and the book has gotten good reviews in other outlets, such as The Boston Globe.

The book is an easy, enjoyable read, and a helpful refresher on the often-turbulent history of the Boston Red Sox.

Lester Falters Again in Loss to Twins

So maybe Jon Lester should be the one moved to the bullpen when John Smoltz or Clay Buchholz are deemed ready to move into the rotation.

OK, that’s probably not going to happen, but Lester, who had been the ace of the Red Sox staff last year, has struggled mightily in 2009. His woes continues last night as he gave up five runs in the fifth inning on route to a 5-2 victory by the Twins over the Red Sox.

Amalie Benjamin says that the Red Sox continue to be put in a hole by Lester, who has given up at least five runs in five starts this season. Michael Silverman has Lester’s woes continuing in Minnesota, even though it was just one bad inning that did him in. Daniel Barbarisi notes that the Red Sox new lineup got off to a quiet start last night.

Nick Cafardo says that we can’t doubt that David Ortiz is trying his best to regain his form. Sean McAdam states that the Red Sox and Ortiz are entering dangerous territory. Silverman writes more about the move down to No. 6 for Big Papi. Bill Reynolds has lost all patience for Ortiz and says baseball is no country for old men. Barbarisi looks at the Red Sox finally making the change with Ortiz.

Bill Burt has an opposing AAA manager raving about Clay Buchholz. Mike Fine says that Jonathan Papelbon’s performance this season is cause for some concern. Rob Bradford looks back at a confusing day for the Red Sox. Barbarisi wonders if this is a lost season for Lester? 

Kevin Gray looks at John Smoltz’s rehab start in Manchester, NH last night with the Portland Sea Dogs. Adam Kilgore has Smoltz satisfied with the progress he’s made thus far. David Willis says Smoltz certainly did not look past his prime last night. Steve Buckley also chronicles the latest step in the John Smoltz Rehab Project. Mike Petraglia has Smoltz targeting Boston.

Cafardo lusts after Joe Mauer. I’m very skeptical that Mauer will leave the Twins after 2010 when he is scheduled to be a free agent – his whole life is there, (his grandparents come to every game) and while I know professional athletes are usually all about who is going to pay the most money, the little I know about Mauer, he seems wired a little differently.

Beth Healy reports on Red Sox minority owner Ed Eskandarian selling his 3.6% stake in the team.

Benjamin’s notebook looks back at a great catch by Jacoby Ellsbury. The Herald notebook also recaps Ellsbury’s catch. The Projo Red Sox journal has Francona putting Papelbon’s struggles in perspective.


Dan Shaughnessy weighs in on Brady’s interview with Peter King yesterday, noting that “it’s rare when anybody at Gillette grants an interview of substance without cash changing hands.” Karen Guregian has Brady facing a new routine going forward. Mark Farinella is glad that Brady is back on the field. Shalise Manza Young looks at comments from Brady’s teammates in recent days.

Mike Reiss has the Patriots still looking for inside linebacker depth, and this morning reports that they have signed former Packers and Lions linebacker Paris Lenon.


Marc J. Spears and Steve Bulpett report on Kevin Garnett’s knee surgery. Spears’ notebook has Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins unable to attend the USA Basketball minicamp in July because of Perkins’ wedding.

Twitter Updates for BSMW on 2009-05-26