Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gene Conley and the Search for the Holy Grail

Seriously. I've been meaning to post this for a while, and today's the day.

If you've never heard of Gene Conley, he's the only man to have won a World Championship in two major sports (MLB and NBA). Considering how man years he played back-to-back MLB and NBA seasons, it's almost unthinkable that he played baseball for 11 years, and basketball for another 6.

I read his bio, authored by his wife, and must say it was a surprisingly good read and really provides a lot of insight into what is was like for a baseball family during the '50s and '60s. Unlike other players, Conley had the advantage of being able to threaten to play basketball full-time, and so had at least a little leverage in contract negotiations. All the same, to make ends meet he often played BOTH sports, which inevitably entailed fatigue and injuries, which inevitably lead to a lot of drinking to deal with the pain. Mrs. Conley doesn't shy away from dealing with that issue head on, and maintains the position that Mr. Conley is/was always a good man struggling with major problems. As a result, both of them come across as sincere, loving people who, despite these difficulties and Mr. Conley's constantly being on the road, have been married for over 50 years now.

The other thing that really comes through in the book is that Mr. Conley is an absolute card, a fun-loving guy with a big heart who's liable to say/do anything at any given moment.

So, there are A LOT of really great stories in the book, but for the moment I'll stick to this one: Gene Conley, Pumpsie Green, and their quest to go to Jerusalem (mentioned here and here). If you've ever had too much to drink/smoke and set off with your friends on some kind of improbable journey scripted for a mid-80s coming of age movie, you know exactly the kind of thing I'm referring to. I'll omit some details, but it's pretty much like this: after a tough loss in NY, the Red Sox team bus was stuck in traffic. Conley announced he had to pee and was getting off the bus to go to the bathroom at a local bar. On the way out he tapped Pumpsie Green and said, "Let's go." They went, and when they came out of the bar there was no bus. What followed was several days of being AWOL from the Sox while they partied in NY, culminating in the decision to go to Jerusalem. Which didn't work out.

Having read about this in Mr. Conley's bio, I'd love to get in touch with Mr. Green, but it seems no one has any info on how to find him. Makes Pumpsie Green all the more legendary. So, a while back I started signing off on the blog with props to Mr. Green, borrowing words from an old-school Boston disc jockey. I think it's pretty appropriate, and maybe Mr. Green will eventually turn up. I'd certainly like to know if, after the first unsuccessful trip, the two of them ever got to Jerusalem.

In conclusion, thank you once again, Mr. and Mrs. Conley, for signing the card and the book.

Have a great weekend everybody, and have a good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!


  1. What a great story! Lets make it a joint mission to find Pumpsie, okay? I have wanted to write to Conley for a while now... I had no idea that they had written a book...

  2. You're on, sir Troll!

    CCC, Collective Troll, and the quest for Pumpsie Green!

  3. He threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game this past season and his brother is Cornell Green, a Super Bowl champion with the 1970s Cowboys.