Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Two-Tone Tale Of Tony C. And Bobby V.

As most of you know by now, Bobby Valentine will be wearing Tony Conigliaro's number 25, and noted that he was Tony's "last roommate" back in 1976 when Tony was attempting a comeback. I didn't think much of this until my mom e-mailed me this morning regarding Bobby and Tony:

So now I read that Bobby V. chose #25 in honor of his old roommate,
Tony Conigliaro. Where and when did they room?

My initial search (just typing in "Tony Conigliaro" into Google News) brought me right to an article by Art Martone, who was questioning the story. Bobby said the pairing happened when he was with the Padres in 1976. Martone pointed out that Tony had already become a broadcaster by that point. I did a further news search and found nothing about Conig making any comeback attempt in 1976, and no mention of him ever having anything to do with the Padres. I searched and searched, trying to see if Tony's name appeared in any of the spring training articles. Though I did find a mention of him saying in '76 that he might try to play winter ball in '76/'77 (Bobby was still with the Padres for the start of 1977), I got nowhere.

That's when it hit me. This is an ex-athlete we're talking about. Unless your name is Dennis Eckersley, your stories from your playing days are probably going to have major errors. And this is Bobby Valentine we're talking about. Search "valentine" on this blog and you'll find several examples of him getting facts from old stories wrong from this past season on ESPN broadcasts--including one where he challenged viewers to "look it up," and was still wrong.

So I came up with a genius plan. I did a news search on "'comeback' 'Padres'" for March of 1976. And whose name popped up about a million times? That's right, shaggy 70s playboy and, as Seinfeld fans know, the designer of Central Park, JOE PEPITONE.

Okay--I didn't get too excited yet. Yes it was a guy attempting a comeback in spring training 1976 with the Padres. Could Valentine and Pepitone have been roommates? Yes. But I'll take one step further. Joe Pepitone didn't make the team. He was sent to the Hawaii Islanders. The team was known for having a trio of ex-major leaguers to start that season. One of the other ones? Bobby Valentine. Bobby wasn't called up to the bigs that year until September. He played in 120 games with Hawaii in 1976. Joe Pepitone played in 13, never to step on a baseball field after that.

So the question isn't "who was Tony C's last roommate?" but rather "whose last roommate was Booby V?" And the answer to that is Joe Pepitone.

Then I thought: Hmmmm, I'll bet francs to Fenway Franks that Joe Pepitone wore number 25.....

and boom went the dynamite:
Granted, he wore other numbers with other teams, but when he went to the Hawaii Islanders, you gonna tell me they gave anybody else number 25?

So we have Bobby Valentine, in 1976, being teammates with a well-known Italian player attempting a comeback after a few years out of baseball, who wore #25. I'd say there's a great chance that two ex-major leaguers on a minor league team (who were both playing the same position too) would be put together as roommates, and as Bobby put it, this other guy (who he thought to be Tony C) had Bobby as his "last roommate," for "a few days," which both make sense since Pepitone left the team after 13 games and never played again after that.

So to answer my mom's (and Art Martone's) question: Nowhere and never. Bobby Valentine roomed with a different guy in 1976 in Hawaii who also wore the number in question, 25. How could he confuse the two Italians who were both making comebacks in the mid-70s? You tell me:

That's just my theory. Bobby talked about how he bonded with Tony over both having been beaned. I'm not saying that didn't happen--I'm just guessing he's getting his years and stories mixed up. Until somebody can prove the two played on the same team at the same time, I'm stickin' with this! (Martone also pointed out the two did NOT play for the Angels at the same time.)
V and C could have met up in '73 or '74, as V was an Angel those years and C wasn't technically released from the Angels until after the '74 season. Still, there's no mention anywhere of C actually attempting a comeback during those years, not even in spring training, so the odds of them being "roommates" then are tiny. (And even if that's true, it wasn't with the Padres, it wasn't 1976, and Tony C would have had roommates after that since he played for the Boston Red Sox AFTER that.)
Aren't you assuming, though, that a newspaper would bother to report which two washed up major leaguers were rooming together? Doesn't seem like something that would have a lot of reporters filling up column inches for you to google 35 years later. Isn't it possible that it happened, but nobody cared? Do you know who anyone else on the 1976 Padres roomed with in Spring Training?
To clarify, I'm saying what V is thinking of is his time in Hawaii rooming with Pepitone.

Also, I'm not just looking for reports of roommates--of course they're not (necessarily) gonna care about reporting that. I'm judging it on stories about the Padres team, and nobody mentioned his name. Tony C attempting a comeback WOULD be a story no matter when or where it happened.
"HA HA HA HA HA HA". Two-faced Bobby V strikes again. Should be a lotta fun for you this year.

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