Tuesday, February 2, 2016

1961 Post #124 Gene Conley

Two-sport star Gene Conley is up today over at my 1956 Topps blog.  Conley spent two seasons pitching for the Phillies when he wasn't busy helping the Boston Celtics win the NBA Championship.

Right before the start of the 1959 season, on March 31st, the Phillies traded Ted Kazanski, Stan Lopata and Johnny O'Brien to the Braves for Conley, Harry Hanebrink and Joe Koppe. The new Phillies general manager was John Quinn and Quinn had spent the previous 13 years as GM for the Braves so he was familiar with the players he was acquiring.  Conley reported late to spring training following the trade as his Celtics were busy wrapping up their second NBA title.

Conley enjoyed one of his finest baseball seasons in 1959, making the N.L. All-Star team and finishing the season with a 12-7 record and a 3.00 ERA.  He pitched two perfect innings in the All-Star Game, striking out both Ted Williams and Yogi Berra.  At the end of the season, he was named the N.L. Comeback Player of the Year.

Conley's second and final season with the Phillies saw him post a record of 8-14.  When he refused to end his basketball career to focus solely on baseball, the Phillies sent Conley to the Red Sox on December 15, 1960 for Frank Sullivan.  Conley appeared on two Topps cards and within three oddball issues to mark his time in Philadelphia.  He's in the 1959 and 1960 Topps sets, as well as the 1960 Armour Coins and 1961 Post sets as a member of the Phillies.  He also has a postcard within the multi-year set released by the club throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

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