Indeed, One of a Kind
On July 4t’h folks all across this great land celebrated our independence and all the freedom it provides. While cities and towns held races, picnics and fireworks one of this region's little known great athletes quietly passed away at his home in Foxboro at the age of 86. Gene Conley was, indeed, "One Of a Kind" - and that just happened to be the title of a book about his life, written by his wife, Kathryn.
Gene Conley played major league baseball for eleven years while at the same time played in the NBA for six seasons AND during one season played for the Red Sox and the Celtics at the same time. Hard to believe? It’s True. Conley played for the Celtics from 1958 through 1961. He pitched for the Red Sox in 1961, '62 and '63. In his three seasons with the Celtics the team won the NBA title each year. In fact, the Celtics beat the Hawks to clinch the NBA title on April 11, 1962 in the old Boston Garden, while at the exact same time the Red Sox were opening their season at Fenway against the Athletics. The next day Conley traded in his black Chuck Taylor's for his baseball spikes and fourteen days later made his first start going eight innings and giving up just one run in the Sox 6-1 win over the Washington Senators. That would be like Chris Sale coming off the bench for the Celtics against the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals and then heading over the Kenmore Square the next week and pitching for the Sox.
You would never hear of such a feat, but it was routine to Conley. "I was in great shape running up and down the floor for 5 months, so I never needed the conditioning of spring training, I just needed to get my arm in shape," Conley once said. For six straight years he played pro basketball then right to pro baseball and repeated the cycle each fall without a single day off! "I don't know how I did it," Conley reflected, "I was having so much fun it kept me going."
Before the Braves were in Atlanta, they played in Milwaukee and before that they played at Braves Field (BU) in Boston. So, Conley is the only man to play for three professional teams in Boston - The Braves, Red Sox and Celtics. In 1955 Conley was the winning pitcher in the All-Star game. In 1957, he was on the Braves staff that beat the Yankees in the World Series. He is the only person with a World Series ring and three NBA Championship rings.
During the last two season’s he played with the Red Sox he was playing in the NBA for the New York Knicks. Imagine rooting for Gene Conley all summer while pitching for the Sox then booing him all winter when he was going head to head with the Celtics? In this day and age many student athletes at the high school level struggle playing multiple sports (although I am an extra-large supporter of the multi-sport athlete.) Can you wrap yourself around a professional playing two sports for a total of 17 full seasons? Not a chance. There will never be another Gene Conley. His wife was right on when she decided her husband's life story needed to be told. She chose the proper title of the book about her husband's unique life and career. One Of A Kind!