The Red Sox began the award in 1990 to perpetuate the memory of Tony C., who died in February of that year following an eight-year struggle to come back from a massive heart attack that left him severely handicapped. Major League teams submit nominations and an independent 12-person panel does the voting.
When Campana was a child, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a cancer of the lymph tissue found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and bone marrow. At age seven Tony had a tumor removed and months of chemotherapy followed. After 10 years of treatment doctors finally declared him cured.
Campana did not begin 2011 on the 40-man roster and was not invited to big league spring training. But by the end of the year, he beat a series of odds on-and-off the field to make it to the Major Leagues and thrive.
Tony began the season with Double-A Tennessee, was soon promoted to Triple-A Iowa and came to the Majors on May 17 in Cincinnati. Tony appeared off the bench that night as a pinch-runner and scored, and later got his first Major League hit – a double to right field.
Campana received six first place votes and 45 points in the voting while Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury had five firsts and 33 points and Arizona third baseman Sean Burroughs had one first and 20 points. Angels right-handed pitcher Jerome Williams and Cleveland third baseman Jack Hannahan also received votes.
Past winners include: Jim Eisenreich (1990), Dickie Thon (1991), Jim Abbott (1992), Bo Jackson (1993), Mark Leiter (1994), Scott Radinsky (1995), Curtis Pride (1996), Eric Davis (1997), Bret Saberhagen (1998), Mike Lowell (1999), Kent Mercker and Tony Saunders (2000), Graeme Lloyd and Jason Johnson (2001), Jose Rijo (2002), Jim Mecir (2003), Dewon Brazelton (2004), Aaron Cook (2005), Freddy Sanchez (2006), Jon Lester (2007), Rocco Baldelli (2008), Chris Carpenter (2009) and Joaquin Benoit (2010).
Tony C. became the youngest player (at age 20) to lead his league in home runs when he hit 32 in 1965, and the youngest in American League history to reach 100 homers (22 years, 197 days). His promising career was tragically cut short when he was hit in the face by a pitch at Fenway Park on August 18, 1967. He missed all of 1968, made an inspiring comeback in 1969 and was traded to the California Angels after the 1970 season. Tony played two years with the Angels and then made another comeback with the Red Sox in 1975, his final season in the Majors.