12/9 Tony C. wins Tony C. award
Cubs outfielder Tony Campana, who overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a youngster to play Major League baseball, was voted the winner of the 22nd annual Tony Conigliaro Award. The award is presented to a Major League player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Conigliaro. Campana will be honored Jan. 19 a the 73rd Boston Baseball Writers Association of America annual dinner.
The Red Sox began the award in 1990 to perpetuate the memory of Conigliaro, who died in February of that year 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.
When Campana was a child, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and bone marrow. At 7, Campana had a tumor removed and months of chemotherapy followed. After 10 years of treatment, doctors finally declared him cured. He was not invited to big league Spring Training camp and did not begin the 2011 season on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. But he was called up May 17 in Cincinnati, and in front of his hometown fans from nearby Springboro, Ohio, showed his speed and ability. He came off the bench in the Cubs game against the Reds as a pinch-runner and scored, and later notched his first Major League hit.
Conigliaro became the youngest player to lead his league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965 at the age of 20, and the youngest in American League history to reach 100 homers. His career was cut short when he was hit in the face by a pitch at Fenway Park on Aug. 18, 1967.
Past award winners include: 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 and Tony Saunders (2000), Graeme Lloyd and Jason Johnson (2001), Jose Rijo (2002), Jim Mecir (2003), Dewon Brazelton (2004), Aaron Cook (2005), Freddy Sanchez (2006), Jon Lester (2007), Rocco Baldelli (2008), Chris Carpenter (2009) and Joaquin Benoit (2010).
– Carrie Muskat