WNPR

Gene Conley, Former Hartford Chief And Multi-Sport Champion, Dies At 86

Jul 6, 2017

Former professional athlete Gene Conley died Tuesday, his family has confirmed. He was 86. Conley played minor league baseball for the Hartford Chiefs in 1951.

Conley gained notoriety for doing what only one other athlete, Otto Graham, has done: winning a major championship in two different sports.  

Conley played both basketball and baseball, winning three NBA titles with the Boston Celtics and a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves.

Back in 1951, Conley pitched in Hartford, one year before the Chiefs left the city for good. And he remembered the night he won his 20th game that year.

“I remember a couple things happened,” Conley said. “I was having a real good year, and at that time I was, we were only making about $200 or $300 a month, ya know. And I was going for my twentieth win, at the end of the season there, and they -- they had a Conley Night for me.”

Conley spoke to Jonathan McNicol earlier this year for WNPR’s podcast The Second First Season. Because Conley was pitching well that year and because his wife was pregnant, the team passed a hat around the stands to collect money for their 6-foot-8 tall right-hander.

McNICOL: You won the game, though, too, as I understand it.

CONLEY: Yeah, we won the game. We -- I got a shutout, and I got the money.

In the majors, he played alongside Hank Aaron the year Aaron hit 44 homers and won the National League MVP award. That year, 1957, the Milwaukee Braves won it all. On the basketball court, Conley won three consecutive titles with Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics from 1959 to 1961.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Conley died of heart failure.