November 10, 1930 |
|April 17, 1952, for the Boston Braves|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 21, 1963, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Earned run average||3.82|
|Career highlights and awards|
Donald Eugene "Gene" Conley (born November 10, 1930) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played eleven seasons from 1952 to 1963 for four different teams. Conley also played forward in the 1952–53 season and from 1958 to 1964 for two teams in the National Basketball Association. He is best known for being one of only two people (the other being Otto Graham–1946 NBL and AAFC Championship, plus 3 more AAFC and 3 NFL championships) to win championships in two of the four major American sports, one with the Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series and three Boston Celtics championships from 1959–61.
Conley was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. While still young, his family moved to Richland, Washington. He attended Richland High School, where he played multiple sports. He reached the all-state team in baseball and basketball and was the state champion in the high jump. Conley attended Washington State University, where in 1950 he played on the Cougar team that reached the College World Series. In basketball, Conley was twice selected honorable mention to the All-America team, leading the team in scoring with 20 points per game. He was a first-team All-PCC selection in 1950.
During the summer, Conley pitched semiprofessional baseball in Walla Walla, Washington, in which scouts from almost every Major League Baseball team came to recruit him. He also was getting contract offers to play professional basketball from the Minneapolis Lakers and the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. At first he declined the offers, saying that his family didn't want him to sign any professional contracts until he finished school. But the offers were getting bigger, and in August of 1950 he signed a professional contract with the Boston Braves for a $3,000 bonus.
In 1949, he and his wife married. They are still married and have three children and seven grandchildren.
Minor league career
Conley attended spring training in 1951 and was assigned to Hartford of the Eastern League by the request of former Braves star Tommy Holmes, who was managing the club. After a month, Conley had a record of five wins and only one loss and was praised by observers in the league, saying that he had the best fastball since former pitcher Van Lingle Mungo played in the league in 1933. On June 10, he threw a one-hitter against Schenectady Blue Jays, giving up the lone hit in the seventh inning. Holmes was promoted to manager of the Braves on June 25, and was replaced by future Baseball Hall of Famer Travis Jackson.
By August 1, Conley had a record of 16 wins with only three losses, leading the league. He was unanimously selected to the Eastern League All-Star team on August 29. He received the Eastern League MVP award that season after he became the first player in Hartford history to win twenty games in a single season.
In the beginning of the 1952 season, Conley, along with fellow rookies George Crowe and Eddie Mathews, was invited to spring training with a chance of making the roster. Around that time, the United States Army was drafting for the Korean War. Many major and minor league players were selected to fight in the war, depleting team rosters. Conley was deferred because of his height (6'8'), which was above the Army maximum height for a soldier.
Professional baseball career
Professional basketball career
November 10, 1930 |
|Listed height||6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)|
|Listed weight||225 lb (102 kg)|
|High school||Richland (Richland, Washington)|
|College||Washington State (1949–1950)|
|NBA draft||1952 / Round: 10 / Pick: 90th overall|
|Selected by the Boston Celtics|
|Position||Center / Forward|
|1952–1953, 1958–1961||Boston Celtics|
|1961–1962||Washington Tapers (ABL)|
|1962–1964||New York Knicks|
|1966–1968||Hartford Capitols (EPBL)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Conley played in the National Basketball Association for six seasons—four seasons for the Boston Celtics and two for the New York Knicks. Conley helped more in a backup role as a strong rebounder averaging 6.3 rebounds per game in only 16.5 minutes of playing time. "When I look back, I don't know how I did it, I really don't", Conley said. "I think I was having so much fun that it kept me going. I can't remember a teammate I didn't enjoy."
When Abe Saperstein's American Basketball League was born in 1961, Tuck Tape Company owner Paul Cohen purchased a franchise, gave it the Tapers name, and placed it in Washington. Conley signed with the team. With the Tapers, Conley often accompanied Cohen on sales calls for his company and gained industry experience.
After his retirement from professional sports, Conley started working for a duct tape company in Boston, Massachusetts. After a year working there, the owner of the duct tape company died. Conley later founded his own paper company, Foxboro Paper Company, which he owned for 36 years until he retired from the business.
Until December 2009, Conley lived in Clermont, Florida, where he played golf and watched the Orlando Magic play in his free time. He moved to his vacation home in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, in 2010. In 2004, his wife released a biography of him called One of a Kind that chronicled his life in both baseball and basketball and related how his family dealt with his being gone for most of the year.
Conley is the last living player to have played for both the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves. As of May 2014, Conley is also one of just sixteen living former Boston Braves, and the youngest of the group.
- Roger Dove (January 2, 1952). "Conley Tabbed a Major Sure-Shot". The Sporting News. p. 2.
- "Washington State University Baseball Players Who Made It to the Major Leagues". Baseball-Almanac.com. Archived from the original on December 16, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
- Donald Honig. Baseball between the Lines: Baseball in the Forties and Fifties as Told by the Men Who Played It. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 193–205. ISBN 0-8032-7268-5.
- Jon Goode (March 2, 2005). "Double play Catching up with Gene Conley". Boston.com. Retrieved January 5, 2008.
- Bob Ajemian (April 18, 1951). "New Tempest Brews in Boston". The Sporting News. p. 14.
- "Eastern League". The Sporting News. May 30, 1951. p. 30.
- "Eastern League". The Sporting News. June 20, 1951. p. 34.
- "Travis Jackson Replaced Holmes in Harford helm". The Sporting News. July 4, 1951. p. 33.
- "Conley, 20, Tops E.L as Hill Winner". The Sporting News. July 4, 1951. p. 33.
- "Scranton Places 4 Players on Eastern League All-Star Team". The Sporting News. August 29, 1951. p. 33.
- "Conley gets MVP award". The Sporting News. September 26, 1951. p. 31.
- Al Hirshberg (December 12, 1951). "Ailing Braves to Try Old Fashioned Cure, More Daylightball". The Sporting News. p. 20.
- Steve O'Leary (November 21, 1951). "Braves Official High on Six-Eight Rookie". The Sporting News. p. 11.
- "Eastern League". The Sporting News. August 29, 1951. p. 33.
- He put in some double time in the big leagues
- Husman, John M. "SABR Baseball Biography Project: Gene Conley". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
- Jeff Twiss. "Timeout with Gene Conley". NBA.com. Retrieved January 5, 2008.
- Melanie Curtsinger. "Gene Conley: One of a Kind". Orlando Magic. Retrieved January 5, 2008.