Words like spirit, determination and courage were way down on the list of terms that Red Sox fans used in connection with John Lackey prior to the 2013 season. Now, they’re at the heart of a very prestigious award given to the veteran pitcher.
Lackey was voted this year’s winner of the 24th annual Tony Conigliaro Award. The honor is presented each year to a major league player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage.
The Red Sox signed Lackey to a lucrative contract prior to the 2010 season. The deal was immediately met with some skepticism, and the skepticism soon turned to frustration as Lackey struggled mightily throughout his first two seasons in Boston. The right-hander posted a 6.41 ERA in 2011, and then underwent offseason Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for all of 2012.
Lackey silenced his critics in a big way in 2013. The 35-year-old posted a 3.52 ERA in 29 regular-season starts before then playing a pivotal role in Boston’s World Series run in October. Lackey went 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in five postseason starts, even winning the Red Sox’ World Series-clinching game.
The Red Sox began the Tony Conigliaro Award in 1990 to honor Tony C., a former Boston outfielder who had died that February following an eight-year struggle to come back from a massive heart attack that left him severely handicapped. Conigliaro, of course, will always be known as the promising local kid who had his career cut short by an eye injury that he sustained when he was hit in the face by a pitch in 1967.
Each major league team submits a nomination for the Tony Conigliaro Award each year, and an independent 12-person panel then votes on a winner. Lackey received six first-place votes and 35 points in the voting this year, while Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy finished in second with 33 points.
Lackey will receive the award at the 75th Boston Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual dinner on Jan. 23.