Saturday, January 14, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Tony Conigliaro Story

I approached reading this new novel, The Tony Conigliaro Story, with some trepidation. I'm old enough to have seen Tony play at Fenway, and, along with the rest of New England, I was caught up in the amazing start to his career. Getting to 100 home runs faster than Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth, meant that this 'hometown kid' was on-track to be one of the greatest hitters ever. The pain of how it all ended is still fresh. It might, I thought, be too much to re-visit.

But author Bruce Fitzpatrick has truly brought Tony's story to life—perfectly capturing the mood and rhythm of Boston in the 1960s. And more importantly, he brings us inside the Conigliaro family. We feel like we really know his Uncle Vinnie, his Dad Sal and his loving Mom Teresa. We are there when he's smitten by his life-long love Julie Markakis (amazingly a cousin of Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis). We have a front row seat when Tony thrashes Lynn High in football or takes the local pitching stud deep to impress the scouts.

This book almost has a film-like quality to it—not surprising, since Fitzpatrick has a screenwriter background. One of the best moments in the book gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look at the first contract negotiations with virtually every team in baseball. One by one, team representatives trudged into the Conigliaro home—most of them making paltry $2,000 offers. Only the Red Sox and Orioles pony up more ($20,000), and the young phenom goes with his heart. He becomes a Boston legend.

The book weaves through his Red Sox career, highlighting special moments such as Johnny Pesky telling the young rookie that he made the team as the Red Sox center fielder. But the most chilling moment is August 18, 1967—the day Tony was hit by a Jack Hamilton fastball and everything changed. Seeing it all from Tony's perspective was a revelation.

This is a must-read for every Red Sox fan—those who lived through it all or those who need to know how it happened. Bruce Fitzpatrick does a masterful job of letting us all recall the amazing life of Tony C. We recommend the book highly.

You can get 'The Tony Conigliaro Story' online HERE.