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CARDINALS’ PITCHER HARRIS WINS 36th TONY CONIGLIARO AWARD

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BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, DEC. 16, 2015) — Today THE PLANET steps back from the sewers of corruption and politics to bring you a baseball story — one that’s also a story of the resilience of the human spirit. We pass it along, hot from our good friends at Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox.

BOSTON, MA – Mitch Harris – an officer, gentleman, and big league baseball player – has been voted the winner of the 26th annual Tony Conigliaro Award. The award, begun in 1990 by the late Red Sox publicist and team historian Dick Bresciani to honor native son Conigliaro, is presented to a major league player who, in Bresciani’s words, “has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.’’

Members of the Conigliaro family will present the award at the 77th Boston Baseball Writers’ dinner co-hosted by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Sports Museum. The dinner is scheduled to be held January 21, 2016, at the Marriott Copley Place.

“I’m beyond honored,” Harris said, “especially as I learn more about Tony Conigliaro and what he has meant.”

Harris, who turned 30 on November 7, made his major-league debut last season for the Cardinals, seven years after St. Louis drafted him in the 13th round out of the United States Naval Academy in 2008. He placed his baseball career on hold while serving a five-year commitment to the Navy, which included two deployments to the Persian Gulf and another which took him to Russia and then South America. He is currently a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve, assigned to the Navy Operational Support Center in Hialeah, Fla.

After the Navy granted him permission to serve the final four months of his tour in the Navy Reserve, Harris returned to professional baseball in 2013. The Cardinals placed him in short-season Single-A ball, where he was considerably older than his teammates and unsure whether he would ever regain the velocity he once had on his fastball.

By the next spring, 2014, he was invited to big league camp, advanced through three classes of minor-league ball and on April 25, 2015, in Milwaukee, Harris was summoned from the Cardinals bullpen in the fifth inning. He struck out the first batter he faced, Adam Lind, on four pitches. He appeared in 26 games for the Cardinals, all in relief, compiling a 2-1 record with a 3.67 ERA. In 27.0 innings, the 6-4, 240-pound right-hander struck out 15 batters and walked 13.

Harris became the first graduate of the Naval Academy to make it to the big leagues since Nemo Gaines, a left-handed relief pitcher, appeared in four games, all losses, for the Washington Senators in 1921. Gaines, unlike Harris, was granted permission by the Navy to pitch the summer after his graduation from the academy. Gaines returned to service, retiring as a captain in 1946.

Harris was selected by a 13-member committee comprised of major league executives, sports editors, other media representatives, Red Sox vice president Pam Kenn, Red Sox historian Gordon Edes, and the Conigliaro brothers, Richie and Bill. Harris received five first-place votes and 34 points in the balloting, which awarded five points for a first-place vote, three for second, and one for third.

Conigliaro, a native of Swampscott, Mass., at 19 hit a home run in his first at-bat at Fenway Park in 1964. A year later, 1965, he became the youngest player to lead his league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965, his second full season in the big leagues. He also became the youngest American League player to reach 100 home runs when he hit No. 100 at 22 years and 197 days, just 65 days older than the major league record holder, Mel Ott (22 years, 132 days).

Conigliaro’s early promise of greatness went unfulfilled after he was struck in the face by a pitch from Jack Hamilton of the Angels on Aug. 18, 1967, fracturing his left cheekbone, dislocating his jaw, and severely damaging the retina in his left eye. It was the only hit batsman of the season for Hamilton, and just one of 13 in the span of an eight-year career.

Conigliaro missed all of the 1968 season, but returned to play two more years in Boston, hitting a career-high 36 home runs for the Sox in 1970, when he also drove in 116 runs. He was traded after the season to the California Angels, but declining vision led him to announce his retirement in 1971. He attempted another comeback for the Red Sox in 1975, but ended his career after batting just .123 in 69 plate appearances.

Congliaro suffered a massive heart attack in 1982, and died eight years later at the age of 45.

Tickets for the event can be purchased by contacting Renee Quinn at rquinn@sportsmuseum.org or (617) 624-1231.

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“Who is the third that always walks beside you?”T.S. Eliot, from “The Waste Land,” line 360, (1922).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

The views expressed in any comment section are not those of PLANET VALENTI or endorsed in any way by PLANET VALENTI; this website reserves the right to remove any comment which violates its Rules of Conduct, and it is not liable for the consequences of any posted comment as provided in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and PLANET VALENTI’s terms of service.

 

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Gene
Gene
5 years ago

Nice change of pace, DV. Enjoyed this piece thoroughly. Tony C. was one of my favorites back in the day. Good award for the right reasons, especially with the money being spent in sports today.

Depressed
Depressed
5 years ago

Not many interested in today’s topic. Let’s try this–New site plan wins approval. THS project steams forward. Even though city residents are against the project by 4 to 1 nobody is listening to them except Mr. Gaetani. He is a staunch opponent of the new school. Just consider if only a handful of people showed up with him at each CCM he may have been sucessful. Thank you Mr. Gaetani. I hope everyone will turn into his tv shows on friday. If he can increase the base of non-GOB-SIG’S the city might have a chance. If Gaetani can’t do it then the city is doomed. Don’t give up Mr. Gaetani. The city needs you more than ever now. Good Luck.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
Reply to  Depressed
5 years ago

Sad thing is, if they eliminated one playing field could of kept 6 garages on the south side of the existing building. That would save taxpayers millions. Its not a crazy idea, drive over to New Lebanon NY, they have town garages on school site,not a big deal.

655321
655321
Reply to  Depressed
5 years ago

I wish The Planet had a “Report this as SPAM” button.

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
5 years ago

This article reminds us that some professional athletes are positive role models.

Ron Kitterman
Ron Kitterman
5 years ago

Love stories like that Dan, thanks for sharing. Sometimes you’ve to pull yourself away from the phony,simplistic duplicitous bastards and read about guys like him to keep yourself normal.

Chuck vincelette
Chuck vincelette
5 years ago

How do you get that 4 to 1 ratio, Depressed?

chuck garivaltis
chuck garivaltis
5 years ago

Nice piece, Dan. Tony C. was a great one. What a story it would have been. Local kid playing for the Red Sox breaks the Babe’s home run record. All signs were there including being youngest player ever to hit 100 home runs. Tony Conigliaro was tall, lean, handsome, a role model. Everything the drug inflated (starting 38 years of age) Barry Bonds is not. Life is not always fair.

Billy Conigliaro was Tony’s younger brother who didn’t have Tony’s talent. Billy played pro ball and I saw him a few times at Wahconah ParkI. I’m not sure if he made it to the majors for a cup of coffee but his baseball career was short lived.

But this piece is for Tony C. A saga sad enough to bring tears to our eyes.

Gene
Gene
Reply to  chuck garivaltis
5 years ago

CHUCK
Billy C. did indeed play with Pittsfield. Billy made the majors and played for five years, three with Boston, one with Milwaukee, and one with Oakland. .256 lifetime, with some power. He hit 18 HRs for the Sox in his second year.

chuck garivaltis
chuck garivaltis
Reply to  Gene
5 years ago

Thanks, Gene, though not a very long major league career Billy sure did a lot better than a cup of coffee in the bigs.

Local Yokel
Local Yokel
5 years ago

The greatest baseball player that ever played was The Splendid Minter Ted Williams, and that is a fact.

chuck garivaltis
chuck garivaltis
Reply to  Local Yokel
5 years ago

Yokel,

If your comment said that Ted Williams was the greatest hitter that ever played I would agree with you.

Local Yokel
Local Yokel
5 years ago

Yes,I said Ted Williams.

Discreet Cat
Discreet Cat
5 years ago

The Bambino!

Paul
Paul
5 years ago

Ted Williams hands down.

Discreet Cat
Discreet Cat
5 years ago

A non profit reorganizing, how appropriate.