PTC at bat

Conley belts a hit for the ri76 Seniors, Rhode Island’s first senior softball champions. It was a team that he assembled from the baseball stars of the 1950s. When a mid-season knee injury sidelined him, Pat had compiled a hefty batting average of .519.

As a youth Pat Conley enjoyed a varied and successful career in sports from 1953 through 1962, that included sandlot, schoolboy, and collegiate competition. Pat played on three baseball teams that won championships in Greater Providence leagues and captained two state champion baseball teams in 1956 and 1957. He also ran track and field at LaSalle Academy (javelin, high jump, long jump, and low hurdles) and played baseball and track at Providence College. Pat won several prestigious individual championships in such sports as track and field, basketball, and boxing in addition to several team awards in baseball. By 1962, graduate school, marriage, work, and family responsibilities ended his youthful athletic career.

Pat on crutches

Noted Journal sports reporter and cartoonist Frank Lanning, founding president of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, drew the sketch of Conley shortly after he tore the meniscus in his right knee while rounding second base after hitting a double.

In 1973, Pat resumed athletic competition to play for Dorsey’s Tavern in the pioneering over-35 softball league in the City of Warwick. In the following year, he suffered a serious tear in the rotator cuff on the shoulder of his throwing arm that sidelined him for many months.

In 1976, while chairman of the Rhode Island Bicentennial of Independence Commission (ri76), Pat organized an all-star, over-35 slow pitch softball team composed of diamond stars from the 1950s. He played outfield on that team and was batting .519 by midseason when he was sidelined again by a serious tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee. That year Pat organized and funded the first statewide senior softball championship tournament. It was won decisively by his ri76 seniors at the conclusion of a season in which they compiled a 74 win-19 loss record that included victories over the state Class A, Class B, and Industrial League champions and a one-run loss to Rhode Island’s major league of softball championship team. After winning their second state senior crown in 1977, the team disbanded.

newspaper article

Conley was featured in a Providence Journal story in August, 1989. He poses next to his law office on Plain Street where he and partners Buddy Cianci and Paul Campbell had recently completed construction of the Parsons Medical Building (90 Plain St.).  Read the article in pdf format > (opens in new window)

In 1979–80, Pat organized another all-star softball squad composed of many former ri76 players. This team, called “Citizens for Cianci,” was created to promote the gubernatorial campaign of the Providence mayor when Pat was Cianci’s chief of staff. Citizens played numerous benefit games for various local charities against formidable league and town teams. During the 1979 season, Pat batted an amazing .605 (55 hits for 91 at-bats) while playing catcher and using a courtesy runner, because the damage to his shoulder prevented him from playing in the outfield and his injured knee made it risky to run the bases once he hit safely and got to first or second base.

By 1979 Pat had turned forty and began to compete in masters track and field. Despite an unrepaired knee and shoulder causing him both to shorten his run and to throw the javelin in an unorthodox three-quarter sidearm position, Pat earned national ranking in the javelin event as he moved through the five-year age categories over the next three decades.

PTC and sons

Pat, flanked by his two sons — Pat, Jr. (left) and Tom pose for this late 1990s photo at the Buffalo, New York Open Invitational Track and Field Meet. Each Conley won gold in his respective age category.

In July 2009, Pat suffered a second major injury to his right knee, tearing his ACL while defending his New England title in the 70 to 74 age division. That injury necessitated athroscopic surgery and sidelined him until he turned seventy-five in June 2013. Now able to compete in the 75 to 79 year-old category, Pat made one last attempt to gain the All-American status that had eluded him by inches in the younger age-graded categories. In his first meet (the Connecticut Senior Games) he succeeded. He followed that victory with three more state championships — Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine. He won the Maine meet (his final competition) with his fourth All-American performance despite pulling a hamstring muscle at the start of the event. His four-meet victory streak in 2013 at the age of seventy-five not only earned Pat All-American status but also the thrower-of-the year award from the Ocean State Senior Olympics. Two years earlier he had received the John Costine Cup from that organization for his lifetime achievements in masters track and field.

During his thirty-four years of masters competition Pat won a total of 38 state, New England, and regional championships in his javelin event, including the Canadian national championship in 1981 at Richmond, British Columbia. He was the victor in the state meet of every New England state.

Connecticut senior games program

Pat was featured on the cover (upper left) of the 2004 Connecticut Senior Games program. He won the Connecticut Senior javelin title six times and made his first All-American throw at the Connecticut Senior Games in May, 2013.

Pat’s most memorable masters experience came in 1999 when he captained the 106-person Rhode Island delegation to the National Senior Games in Orlando, Florida. In that competition Pat finished eighth, the final medal position, with a throw that was only 19 inches below the All-American standard for the 60 to 64 age division. The field event coordinator for that meet was U.S. Olympian Tom Pukstys, the American record-holder in the javelin. Pat had sponsored Tom and furnished him with financial support during Tom’s Olympic career.

In 2001, Pat, who is also an attorney, incorporated the Rhode Island Senior Olympics, and drafted its bylaws to give legal standing and more systematic organization to the Rhode Island senior athletic program in all sports. Working with executive director Mike Lyons and several dedicated members of the group’s directors, Pat chaired the Senior Olympics board, conducted its regular meetings, provided it with a permanent headquarters in his Conley’s Wharf on Allens Avenue in Providence, and assisted the organization in receiving state financial assistance to stage its annual senior games. Pat’s temporary withdrawal from active competition due to his injuries coupled with mounting business pressures prompted his retirement as board chairman in August 2010.

javelin-masters-2009

Masters javelin competitors gather for this group photo at the 2009 New England championship meet. In this contest, Conley the defending New England champion, tore his ACL. He had competed since 1979 with the torn meniscus suffered playing softball in 1976. The two injuries to his right knee forced him to undergo arthroscopic surgery but did not end his career.