Sox 67 – Questions About Tony C.

At Thanksgiving time in 67, the sport pages were full of traditional football rivalries, both high school and college. Some have disappeared, like BC-Holy Cross, and others have lost much of their importance, like Eastie and Southie.
There was some Sox news, however. One involved the continuing saga of Tony Conigliaro, the other a prediction from a rival GM. Like many Conig statements concerning his eye injury, the article was full of wishful thinking. Headlined "Conig's Eye Normal, Can Begin Practice", the unauthored piece quoted Dr Charles Regan of Retina Associates: "After extensive examination of Tony Conigliaro's visioin today, we find his left eye presents a normal picture, the center of which pin point size is blurred." The article went on to say that Tony, in effect, could start hitting again. The headline, however, was misleading- his vision could not be normal if there was any blurring. Former Herald writer David Cataneo, in his fine book Tony C:Triumph and Tragedy presents a much more negative picture. After beginning hitting at Dillon Field House at Harvard against slow pitches from reliever Darrell Brandon, Conig commented to the press; "I feel terrific". But speaking in private to Sox trainer (and future co-owner) Buddy LeRoux, Tony remarked "I don't know where the hell the ball is. I don't know if I can make it this year." What most fans or writers did not know is that vision in his left eye was 20-50 with no guarantees of improvement.
Heading for the league winter meetings, Orioles GM Harry Dalton, whose team had swept the Dodgers in the 66 World Series only to fall to sixth the following year, spoke to the Globe's Clif Keane. Replying to talk about a possible Boston dynasty, Dalton talked about injuries and sore arms to star hurlers Jim Palmer and Dave McNally. He also spoke about players putting on weight, like slugger Boog Powell. But perhaps his most interesting comments were about player attitudes: "We also had a lot of young men who were given big raises.It was tough for them to cope with so much money ($50,000 was a fortune in 1967). It's hard handling money when you get older. When young men have it, then it's that much tougher."
Dalton's comments are interesting. On one level, he was right about the Sox. Whether the cause was money or not, attitudes on the team would change. Like Powell, George Scott would permanently gain weight and have a horrible year in 68. Injuries to Jim Lonborg and Jose Santiago would severely limit the pitching staff. And like Baltimore manager Hank Bauer, Dick Williams would make mistakes and alienate many of his players. There was one big difference, however. When a managerial change had to be made, the O's had coach Earl Weaver waiting in the wings. Within two years, the Weaver-led Orioles really would start a dynasty- four pennants and two World Series wins. When the time came to fire Williams, the Sox had to settle for Eddie Kasko, an underrated manager but certainly no Weaver. Baltimore always seemed to have the pitching depth, which the Townies never did. The Impossible Dream would last only one year.

About Matt O'Donnell