21. Tony Conigliaro
> Age: 19
> Season: 1964
> Team: Boston Red Sox
> Achievement(s): 24 HR
Tony Conigliaro is one of the great “what ifs” in sports history. The Red Sox slugger still holds the record for most home runs as a teenager, with 24 in the 1964 season, when he was just 19. The next year, he led the AL with 32 home runs, and his career had an upward trajectory, until 1967. Conigliaro was hit in the face by a fastball that broke his jaw and damaged his eye. Tony C sat out the next season and seemed to be back to his old self the next year. Conigliaro tried to keep playing, but his eyesight worsened and forced him to retire at just 26 years old. He briefly returned years later, but never found the form of his early years.
22. Vida Blue
> Age: 21
> Season: 1971
> Team: Oakland Athletics
> Achievement(s): Cy Young, MVP
Vida Blue’s first full season was by far his best — not to mention one of the greatest single-season pitching performances baseball has ever seen. The 21-year-old went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA, the lowest in the AL. The Oakland A’s pitcher also had the lowest hit rate and the highest strikeout rate in the AL. He made his first All-Star team and earned the AL MVP and Cy Young Award as the AL’s best pitcher.
23. Wayne Gretzky
> Age: 19
> Season: 1979-1980
> Team: Edmonton Oilers
> Achievement(s): Hart Trophy, All-Star
The legend of Wayne Gretzky started early. In his first NHL season at age 19, The Great One led the NHL in points, with 137, and assists, with 86. Gretzky made his first All-Star team. He also won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP — it would be the first of his record nine Hart Trophies in his career.
24. Wilt Chamberlain
> Age: 23
> Season: 1959-1960
> Team: Philadelphia Warriors
> Achievement(s): MVP, Scoring leader, rebounding leader
Wilt Chamberlain may be the most dominant athlete in American sports history, so it makes sense that even as a rookie he was head and shoulders the best player in the NBA. In his first year with the Philadelphia Warriors, Chamberlain averaged 37.6 points per game and 27.0 rebounds per game, both tops in the league. Wilt the Stilt won the MVP that season, along with Rookie of the Year honors.
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