Boston baseball royalty in the form of the Conigliaro family was in Lynn Friday night when the North Shore Navigators invited the Nahant Little League Minor League champion Athletics team to take part in pre-game festivities at Fraser Field.
The Athletics have two young players on their roster whose names are sure to bring feelings of excitement to any Boston Red Sox fan who followed the team in the 1960s and 1970s. The players are 11-year-old Tony Conigliaro II and 8-year-old Billy Conigliaro II, the sons of Richie Conigliaro and Darlene Conigliaro.
Tony C. II and Billy C II are the nephews of Billy Conigliaro, who played for the Boston Red Sox and won a world championship with the 1973 Oakland Athletics, and the late Tony Conigliaro, the former Red Sox slugger who is still the youngest player in American League history to reach 100 home runs.
Adolphe Graciale, manager of the Nahant Athletics, said that Tony II and Billy II were key contributors to the team’s championship season and that both players have the potential to excel in the sport in high school and beyond.
Richie Conigliaro was asked whether his sons understood the illustriousness of their name in baseball circles.
“They understand it. They have baseball in their blood – they’re really good ballplayers,” said Conigliaro. “They’re both right-handed hitters and can play any position.”
Richie remembers vividly his brother Tony’s debut at Fenway Park in 1964 when he hit a home run in his first at-bat.
“I was 10 years old and Tony was 19 when he hit that first home run at Fenway,” said Richie. “I was there. The thrill was that there was a standing ovation for him when he was introduced and before we got to sit down Tony hit the first pitch out of the park. It was amazing, it really was.”
Conigliaro said though the family’s baseball dynasty was born 50 years ago, people still approach him and want to talk about the days of yore.
“It was a long time ago and people still remember – it’s great to be part of that tradition,” said Conigliaro.
Richie’s wife, Darlene, said the naming of their children was done out of respect for the family’s proud baseball heritage.
“It was definitely something that we did to keep Tony’s memory alive and then we had a second child we only saw it fit to name him after Billy,” said Darlene.
“My sons love baseball. It’s in their genes. They live to play baseball.”
Darlene said when people hear the name, Conigliaro, the reaction is always, “Any relation to the ballplayers?”
Tony Conigliaro attended St. Mary’s High School in Lynn where the gym bears his name. Many baseball observers feel that as a pull hitter at Fenway with incredible power, Tony C. would have threatened to break the all-time home run record (Hank Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth’s mark in 1974 while Barry Bonds eventually became the all-time home run king with 762). At the age of 20, Conigliaro led the American League in home runs (32), the youngest player ever to do so.