Feeney, Conant (2008)
You can add the name of Conant Feeney to the “All-Downeast” team- joining the likes of Cutler’s Neil Corbett, Eastport’s Omar Norton, Woodland’s Tony Tammaro, and Cherryfield’s Carleton Willey, among others – that legendary list of Washington County ballplayers who contributed mightily to the rich lore of Maine baseball history during the heyday of town team ball.
Conant Feeney of Jonesboro was born in 1932, grabbed onto baseball at an early age with encouragement from his father Harland and Uncle Lawton, and never let go.
“I think Coney had a bat in his hand from the day he was born,” recalls his sister Anne White. “It’s a wonder there’s a rock left in Jonesboro, I think he hit them all into the Chandler River.”
Coney pitched for Jonesboro High School and the Machias American Legion team but it was the local town team – the Jonesboro Jets – where the talented southpaw left an indelible mark. The popularity of home-grown baseball teams providing a sense of pride and identity to the local populace was nowhere more evident than among the rural coastal towns of Downeast Maine – Machias, Cutler, Eastport, Cherryfield, Milbridge, Dixie – and Conant Feeney found his baseball home with Jonesboro at the tender age of 14.
Coney pitched well enough to attract the attention of scouts from both the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers. In one three game stretch in 1951, he was on the losing end of a two-hit, 15 – strikeout effort against Woodland, and then bounced back with wins against Cutler (22 strikeouts) and Machias, a gaudy 2-hit, 22 strikeout performance.
Coney got the call from the big show in 1952 when he signed a professional contract with the Dodgers. The local newspaper proclaimed this headline: “Jonesboro Hurler Signs Contract With Dodgers.” The article went on to say that a “husky 18-year old six-foot southpaw, Conant “Coney” Feeney of Jonesboro last night became the second Washington County pitcher in two years to sign a contract in organized baseball.” Coney was joining Cherryfield’s Carleton Willey who had signed a year ago with the Braves.
The professional stint simply didn’t work out for Coney – “he had never been away from home and he was a home town fellow” – offered his sister Anne. Coney returned home, joined the Army and played service ball all over the country until his discharge in 1955.
Stationed at Ft. Devens, Mass. in 1954, Coney nevertheless managed to continue his career with his beloved Jets. Coney would take the Friday night train to Bangor and catch a ride to Jonesboro, arriving Saturday morning. He would take the mound for Jonesboro for Sunday’s game and then hitchhike or grab a ride with a trucker back to Boston, making his 8 a.m. Monday check-in time back at Devens.
“Coney would rather play ball for fun than money,” said Omar Norton, a fellow Hall of Famer, and close friend “He looked forward to those games on Sunday and really got a kick playing against Cutler or Eastport.”
Coney died of a sudden heart attack in 1979 at the age of 46. The home town boy with the big curve ball now rightfully takes his place among Maine’s baseball elite.