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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 voting.

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.

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