Games of Note: Today is the anniversary of one of the only low points of that wondrous 1967 Red Sox campaign. On August 18, 45 years ago, Tony Conigliaro was hit under his left eye socket, on the cheekbone, by a Jack Hamilton pitch. Conigliaro misses the rest of the Impossible Dream season, as well as the entire 1968 campaign, and is never quite the same player again when he returns to the field for four more seasons.
Before he was struck by the errant pitch, Conigliaro was hitting .287/.341/.519, at a time when offense was at an extreme low point in baseball history: that line accounted for a 142 OPS+ in '67. It was the best season the 22-year-old had produced, and that was saying something, given he had led the American League in homers with 32 when he was all of 20, and in his first 494 games -- starting with his age-19 season -- Tony C had compiled 104 homers, a .276/.339/.510 line and 132 OPS+, and had just logged his first All-Star appearance.
When he returned to the Red Sox in 1969, Conigliaro was only able to amass a .255/.321/.427 showing, his worst in the majors to that point. He would rebound somewhat in 1970, posting a 117 OPS+, but was dealt to the California Angels following the season. While he would rejoin the Red Sox in 1975, after four years away from the majors, the then 30-year-old Conigliaro had nothing left to give the baseball world. He would be released before the season was even over, a sad end to a career filled with more promise than most.
Transactions: The 1940 Red Sox select Charlie Gelbert off of waivers from the Washington Senators. There's nothing particularly special about Gelbert, who for his career owned an 81 OPS+, but he had hit well in limited duty with the Senators in that season, and the 62-52 Red Sox were just seven games out of first place in the American League with 40 games to go -- a little depth couldn't hurt.
This sentiment was proven true just a few days later, when regular third baseman Jim Tabor collapsed on the field due to his appendix. Tabor would miss a full month, returning on September 21, with Gelbert taking over at third in the meantime. The 23-year-old Tabor had hit .281/.341/.515 with 20 homers and 53 extra-base hits overall to that point, and was a huge part of the Red Sox lineup during his breakout season -- his 115 OPS+ was fourth-best in a lineup that featured Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio. In fact, offense was all this club had going for it, as the 1940 Red Sox collectively owned a 92 ERA+.
Tabor's absence upset the balance, as Gelbert hit just .180/.247/.191 while the regular third baseman was absent. The Red Sox would go just 20-20 the rest of the way, and finish the season 82-72, in fourth place and eight games back the AL-leading Tigers.
Birthdays: Bob Zupcic turns 46 year old today. The former Red Sox and Chicago White Sox outfielder was drafted in the first round, at #32, by Boston, but played in the majors for just four years, calling it a career following the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Zupcic hit just .256/.310/.351 (78 OPS+) with the Red Sox, before the White Sox claimed him off of waivers in May of '94. They would release him in 1995, before he played a game, and this resulted in his joining independent ball, before heading to the minors once more, this time for the Marlins and then on a return trip to the White Sox organization. This team hopping continued for another couple of years, with Zupcic spending time in Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh, but never again making the majors. After a stint in the Mexican League, Zupcic retired due to a back injury.
Random Bob Zupcic fact: He is listed last alphabetically on the all-time list of Red Sox players.