BOSTON, MA—Colorado Rockies right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis has been selected the recipient of the 2017 Tony Conigliaro Award in voting conducted by a 21-person committee of media members, Major League Baseball executives, Red Sox officials, fan representatives, and Conigliaro’s brothers, Richie and Billy.
The Conigliaro Award has been given every year since 1990 in memory of the former Red Sox outfielder, whose career was tragically shortened by a beanball in 1967 and whose life ended in 1990 at the age of 45. It is awarded to a “Major Leaguer who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination, and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.”
The award will be presented at the 79th annual Boston Baseball Writers’ dinner co-hosted by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Sports Museum. The dinner is scheduled to be held January 18, 2018, at the Marriott Copley Place.
“I think being able to be the recipient of this year’s award is nothing short of an honor,’’ Bettis said. “And I feel like the award goes beyond just myself to the help and encouragement of my family and teammates and the entire Colorado Rockies organization.’’
Bettis, 28, was coming off his first full season in the Rockies’ rotation in 2016 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, receiving the news on his first wedding anniversary in November of that year. Bettis underwent surgery eight days later and reported to spring training on time, but during a follow-up screening in March, doctors discovered his cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. He underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy, beginning nine days before his wife, Kristina, gave birth to the couple’s first child, Everleigh Rae.
Bettis’ final cancer treatment came on May 16. He began working out again with the Rockies in June, went out on a rehabilitation assignment to Double-A Hartford in July, and on August 14 made his return to the Rockies in triumphant style, pitching seven scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves. He made nine starts in all for the Rockies, and is expected to be an anchor in the team’s rotation in 2018.
A native of Swampscott, Mass., Conigliaro hit a home run in his first at-bat at Fenway Park in 1964 at only 19 years old. A year later, he became the youngest player to lead his league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965, his second full season in the big leagues. He also became the youngest American League player to reach 100 home runs when he hit No. 100 at 22 years and 197 days old, just 65 days older than the major league record holder, Mel Ott (22 years, 132 days).
Conigliaro’s early promise of greatness went unfulfilled after he was struck in the face by a pitch on August 18, 1967. The pitch fractured his left cheekbone, dislocated his jaw, and severely damaged the retina in his left eye.
Conigliaro missed all of the 1968 season, but returned to play two more years in Boston, hitting a career-high 36 home runs for the Sox in 1970, when he also drove in 116 runs. He was traded after the season to the Angels, but declining vision led him to announce his retirement in 1971. He attempted another comeback for the Red Sox in 1975, but ended his career after batting just .123 in 69 plate appearances.
Congliaro suffered a massive heart attack in 1982, and died eight years later at the age of 45.