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Monday, August 18, 2008

An Unhappy Anniversary: Tony Conigliaro's Beaning

41 years ago today, Jack Hamilton of the Angels hit Tony Conigliaro in the head with a pitched ball. Reports in the Times indicated that Hamilton had no intention of hitting him with the fastball, and visited him in the hospital the following morning. Conigliaro, sensing the coming impact, whipped his head out of the way so fast his batting helmet came off, not that it would have helped him, since the ball hit him directly on the eye. A local favorite who grew up in Boston, he never entirely recovered from his injury, and certainly never achieved the kind of career he may have been headed for prior to his beaning. Hitting 104 home runs through his age 22 season, he had numbers that compared favorably with all-time greats like Ted Williams.

Two weeks after the accident, Conigliaro still couldn't see out of his left eye. The macula — what Conigliaro referred to in interviews as "the film for the camera" — had been damaged in the impact, a hole torn in his vision that doctors told him would give him 20/300 vision, no depth perception, and dashed hopes of a future career.

Seven months later, with no explanation, the tear had filled in, his vision returned, and once again he started in right for the Red Sox. He was traded in the 1970/71 offseason to the Angels, where he languished for one final season before retirement was forced upon him. He made a comeback attempt in 1975 with Boston, but it failed and he retired for good thereafter.

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