Rocco Baldelli wins Tony Conigliaro Award
Rocco Baldelli's remarkable comeback from a career-threatening mitochondrial disorder inspired many throughout the 2008 season.
And now, the long-time Rays outfielder has been rewarded with an annual honor. Baldelli, a Rays free agent, was voted the winner of the 19th annual Tony Conigliaro Award, which is presented to a major league player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C. The announcement was made today.
From the official release:
Tony’s brothers, Billy and Richie, will make the official presentation of the award at the 70 th Boston Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual dinner on Thursday, January 8, 2009 at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in South Boston. Tickets are now available for the dinner.
In 1990 the Red Sox began the award to perpetuate the memory of Tony C., who died that February after an eight-year struggle to come back from a massive heart attack that left him severely handicapped. Major League teams submit nominations and an independent 12-person panel does the voting.
Baldelli was first with 43 points followed by Arizona’s Doug Davis with 27 and Oakland’s Brad Zeigler with 26. Cleveland’s Cliff Lee, Cincinnati’s Mike Lincoln, and Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox also received votes.
Baldelli fought his way back to the major leagues after being diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder which causes chronic muscle fatigue. He missed 15 months with the illness and continues to battle his limitations. He played a key role for the Rays during the team’s postseason drive. The Rhode Island native contributed to Tampa Bay’s World Series berth and A.L. Championship by hitting .333 with one home run and 4 RBI in the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Past winners: Jim Eisenreich (1990), Dickie Thon (1991), Jim Abbott (1992), Bo Jackson (1993), Mark Leiter (1994), Scott Radinsky (1995), Curtis Pride (1996), Eric Davis (1997), Bret Saberhagen (1998), Mike Lowell (1999), Kent Mercker & Tony Saunders (2000), Graeme Lloyd & Jason Johnson (2001), Jose Rijo (2002), Jim Mecir (2003), Dewon Brazelton (2004), Aaron Cook (2005), Freddy Sanchez (2006), and Jon Lester (2007).
Tony C. became the youngest player (20) to lead a major league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965, and the youngest in A.L. history to reach 100 homers (22 years, 197 days). His promising career was tragically shortened when he was hit in the face by a pitch at Fenway Park Aug. 18, 1967. He missed all of 1968, made a dramatic comeback in 1969 and was traded to the California Angels after the 1970 season. Tony played two years with the Angels and then made another comeback with the Red Sox in 1975, his final season in the majors.
Tickets for the dinner are priced at $150 each. Tickets can be purchased by making checks payable to Boston Chapter BBWAA and mailing to: Boston Chapter BBWAA, P.O. Box 7346, Nashua, NH 03060. Proceeds from the event will help the Chapter to continue supporting charitable causes.
-- JOE SMITH