12/12/2003 1:44 PM ET
Jim Mecir voted 2003 Tony Conigliaro Award winner
OAKLAND -- Oakland A's right-handed reliever Jim Mecir has been voted
winner of the 14th annual Tony Conigliaro Award, presented to a Major League
player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit,
determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony Conigliaro.
Conigliaro's brothers, Billy and Richie, will make the official presentation
of the award to Mecir on Jan. 12, 2004 at the Boston Baseball Writers'
Association annual dinner.
In 1990, the Boston Red Sox began the award to perpetuate the memory of Tony
Conigliaro, who died that February 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 11-person panel does the
Mecir received four first-place votes, five seconds and one third from the
11 selectors for 36 points. Tim Laker received four firsts, four seconds
and one third for 33 points. Tom Martin was third with 25 points. John
Franco and R.A. Dickey also received votes.
Mecir has achieved success despite being born with two club feet, a birth
defect that required two operations before the age of 10 and ultimately left
his right leg an inch shorter than his left. Both of his lower calves
remain severely atrophied. Over the years, he has earned the reputation as
one of baseball's hardest-working and fiercest pitching competitors.
A third-round draft pick by Seattle in 1991, Mecir developed into one of
baseball's best middle relievers over the past nine seasons with the Seattle
Mariners, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Oakland Athletics. He
has a 28-26 record and a 3.86 ERA with 10 saves in 357 games.
Past winners were 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)
and Jose Rijo (2002).
Conigliaro became the youngest player (20) to lead a major league in home
runs when he hit 32 in 1965 and the youngest in American League history to
reach 100 homers (22 years, 197 days). His promising career was tragically
shortened when he was hit in the face by a pitch at Fenway Park on August
18, 1967. He missed all of 1968, made a dramatic comeback in 1969 and was
traded to the California Angels after the 1970 season. Conigliaro played
two years with the Angels, then attempted another comeback with the Red Sox
in 1975. After an excellent Spring Training, he made the regular season
roster, got the team's first hit of that season and later hit the Red Sox
first home run. His performance fell off, however, he was outrighted to
Triple-A Pawtucket in mid-June and retired in August.