I am not a nice guy, nor am I tremendously sensitive. But even I have limits, there were some lines that I never intended to cross in this blog. I didn't want to do this, but with the way Red Sox fans find the fact that Matsuzaka hit A Rod and Jeter so piquant, I felt it was time for me to send a more serious message of my own. So without further adieu...
GREAT MOMENTS IN RED SOX HISTORY #7 - 8/18/1967
On August 18 in the middle of the Impossible Dream Season of 1967, Tony Conigliaro came to bat against Jack Hamilton of the California Angels. Hamilton's pitch hit Tony C in the face, causing massive trauma. Tony missed the entire 1968 season. He won the Comeback Player of the Year award, which now bears his name, in 1969, but he was never the same. By 1975 he retired because his eyesight was deteriorating.
Bob Ryan wrote a piece on the tragic event last year on its 39th anniversary. I thought this particular paragraph was worth noting:
But Aug. 18 is always a somber date for me, and, I'm sure, for many others. Tony C is the greatest of all ``What-Ifs?" in Boston sports history. When he stepped into the box in that fateful fourth inning, he was 22 years old. He was the Golden Boy, en route to the Golden Career. Who among us wouldn't have traded places with Tony C?
I just don't see how a fan base which professes to possess a sterling knowledge of baseball history can in one breath lament the pitch that ended Tony C's career but still enjoy the spectacle of Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter being hit because they wear another uniform. If Roy Halladay had hit David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez or JD Drew this evening, Red Sox Nation would have deluged Governor Patrick's office with demands that he call out the state militia and declare martial law to punish the offending pitcher.
Is it a really a coincidence that Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield has hit more batters than any other pitcher in Major League Baseball since the start of the 2003 season? Is it a coincidence that the Red Sox seem to dominate this Sports Illustrated feature on basebrawls, including this shot of Pedro Martinez getting his just deserts?
Pitchers who have spent significant time on the Red Sox currently rank 2, 3 and 4 in active leaders in hit batsmen.
The guy who comes to me with his Red Sox information has an insufferable bravado he uses when he talks about Red Sox pitchers hitting opposing batters "by accident." He pauses, which would add dramatic emphasis if his rhetorical gifts measured up to his opinion thereof. And it's typical of Red Sox Nation's reaction to the bullying tactics of the Olde Towne Team. And if you don't believe me, look at this shot of the famous moment when Varitek bravely stood up to A Rod.
It truly takes a brave man to stand up to another man whilst wearing a mask, helmet, chest protector, shin guards and a big leather catcher's mitt. Just ask a Red Sox fan, and that fan will tell you how tough 'Tek is and how that moment was an impressive achievement.
Maybe I'm being a little too harsh in reminding New Englanders of a superstar cut down in his prime and dying before his time because he was hit in the face by a pitched ball. But that is the end result of throwing 96 mile per hour fastballs as you learn to pitch inside, or try to remind the world that you own the inside part of the plate.
I understand that pitching inside is part of the game. But I don't believe that the Red Sox make mistakes when they hit opposing players. I don't know much about baseball as it's played in the Japanese League, but I highly doubt that they only pitch to half of the strike zone in the Far East. I just find myself imagining that it's more than a little coincidental that the two hitters beaned by Daisuke Matsuzaka were either notoriously successful against the Red Sox (Jeter) or on pace to break all records for hitting in the month of April (A Rod) while he learned the subtle nuances of pitching in North American baseball.
I think we all know how Red Sox Nation will react should the next message pitch hurt one of their heroes. What I fear in this situation is that Red Sox Nation will show as much dignity as they have in all of this discussion of the A Rod and Jeter incidents should another unfortunate incident like this
befall and opposing player in Fenway.