Tomorrow marks the 45th anniversary of Tony Conigliaro’s beaning at the hands of the Angels’ Jack Hamilton, a career-altering injury for the former, who passed away in 1990. For persons of a certain vintage, Conigliaro’s 1967 injury ranks right up there on the list of all-time Red Sox heartbreaks, with end results far more tragic than Bucky Dent’s 1978 playoff HR or Grady Little sticking with Pedro Martinez too long in the 2003 ALCS. As recently as six years ago, whether or not Conigliaro was hit by a spitball was still being debated. The following comes from the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley, and was published on August 18, 2006 :
For years, former California Angels righthander Jack Hamilton has dismissed the theory that his pitch that hit Tony Conigliaro on August 18, 1967 was a spitball. But one of Hamilton’s own teammates, shortstop Jim Fregosi, has a differing view.
“To me, it looked like it could have been a spitball,” said Fregosi, now a scout with the Atlanta Braves. “The way the ball rode in on Conigliaro, I thought it was a spitter.”
Hamilton, who has admitted he sometimes threw the illegal pitch during his professional career, adamantly denies the suggestion.
“I liked Jim and liked playing with him, but he wouldn’t know what I was throwing, said Hamilton. “I only threw a spitter once in a great while, when nothing else was working. I was pitching pretty good that night.”
“It was a fastball,” said Rodgers, who, like Fregosi, later managed the Angels. “The only people who would know for sure if it was a spitball are the pitcher and me. Everyone else would be guessing. And I’m telling you, it was not a spitball. It was just a fastball that rode in on Tony.”
“If you’re asking me if Jack Hamilton threw a spitball from time to time, yes, he did. But I caught a lot of guys who threw spitballs on occasion. I caught Lew Burdette at the end of his career, and he threw a spitter on occasion. George Brunet threw a spitter on occasion. Ryne Duren tried throwing a spitter, and what a disaster that was.”