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Tony Conigliaro documentary premieres at Lynn Auditorium Jan. 17

LYNN — Tony Conigliaro would have turned 75 last Tuesday. 

The Red Sox star, whose triumphant life and career were cut short by a series of tragic events, is the subject of a new documentary film, "25: Tony Conigliaro, The Documentary," that will premiere at Lynn Auditorium Jan. 17. 

Rico Petrocelli and Jim Lonborg, Tony C.'s teammates on the 1967 "Impossible Dream" team, are among those expected to attend. And Mayor Thomas M. McGee has declared January 17 "Tony C. Day." 

Baseball fans of all ages will find the movie inspirational, said Rich Conigliaro, Tony C.'s younger brother.

"I saw it the other day for the first time, and it's really, really good," he said. "People my age (66) know about Tony, but the young athletes will be inspired and learn why he was something special. Young people know about the gym at St. Mary's High School, which bears his name, and all the Tony C.'s restaurants, but nobody, especially the kids, really knows the real story. They will see why people are still talking about Tony C. all these years later.

"And the Lynn Auditorium is the perfect place for the premiere, just about across the street from where it all began at St. Mary's."

Tony C. was, indeed, something special. A Revere native, he grew up in Swampscott and lived in Nahant later in life. During his 1964 rookie season, Conigliaro batted .290 with 24 home runs and 52 RBI in 111 games. In his first at-bat in Fenway Park, Conigliaro hit a homer. He became the youngest home-run champion ever in 1965, at age 20, when he led the American League with 20. Two years later, at 22, he became  the youngest player in AL history to hit 100 home runs.

In 1967, the slugger was hit in the eye with a fastball that nearly ended his career and put his life in jeopardy. Doctors told him his playing days were over. Determined to return to the game he loved, Conigliaro made a comeback in 1969, smashing a home run in his first game back and hitting 20 homers with 82 RBI in 141 games, earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. In 1970, he reached career-high numbers in HRs (36) and RBI (116). That season he and his brother, Billy, formed two-thirds of the Red Sox outfield. After a stint with the Angels in 1971, he returned to the Red Sox briefly in 1975 as a designated hitter, but was forced to retire because his eyesight had been permanently damaged. A heart attack and stroke in 1982 left him permanently disabled and, eight years later at age 45, he died of pneumonia and kidney failure. 

"This movie is like the first time you saw 'Rocky.' You will leave the theater feeling inspired, with what Tony did and how he came back," said Rich.

Balcony seats have been reserved for local youth athletic teams at no cost. Baseball players from Swampscott and Lynn schools, including St. Mary's, which will retire Tony's number and has commissioned an oil painting of the slugger that will permanently be at the school, and area YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs have already signed up for free tickets.

Swampscott's Mike Lynch, the retired Channel 5 sports anchor, will serve as master of ceremonies and lead a Q&A session with stars in attendance. Tony's brother Billy, who also roamed the outfield for the Red Sox, will be on hand.

Rich Conigliaro's partners in the making of "25" include director/producer John Ippolito and his team, and former state treasurer Joe Malone, who conducted the interviews and serves as narrator. Rich said Tony's former high school teammate Frank Carey, who went on to great success as North Reading High's baseball coach, offered support and a helping hand, as have Joel Abramson, Dan Dill and others.

Rich said other Tony C. projects are in the works. These include an ESPN program about the star, coordinated with Major League Baseball and the Red Sox and narrated by Ben Affleck, and a future feature film that's in the screenwriting phase.

"25: Tony Conigliaro, The Documentary" world premiere, January 17, 8 p.m., at Lynn Auditorium. Tickets: $25 (film only) and ($40, 6 p.m. VIP meet-and-greet plus film) are available at lynnauditorium.com. More info at 978-337-1414.

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