Hall of Fame baseball writer accused of molestation

Bill Conlin speaks after being honoured with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for Journalists for his...

Bill Conlin speaks after being honoured with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for Journalists for his more than 45 years of baseball coverage at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, July 23, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

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, Last Updated: 6:26 PM ET

A Hall of Fame baseball writer and well- known Philadelphia sports columnist is facing accusations from four people who say he molested them as children in the 1970s, according to a report.

Bill Conlin retired Tuesday after more than four decades at the Philadelphia Daily News amid reports that the Philadelphia Inquirer was set to publish a story about the alleged assaults.

In its story, posted online Tuesday afternoon, the Inquirer says three women and a man have accused Conlin in “vivid accounts” of groping and fondling them and touching their genitals when they were between ages seven and 12.

The alleged victims decided to speak out in the wake of the child-sex abuse scandal at Penn State, according to Conlin’s niece, who said she was molested by Conlin as a child, and also to bring attention to what one of them called “the stupid statute of limitations” on sex crimes.

The niece, now an Atlantic City prosecutor, told the paper of Conlin’s alleged assaults that “so many people ... knew about this and did nothing.”

Conlin declined comment through his lawyer, the paper said.

“Mr. Conlin is obviously floored by these accusations, which supposedly happened 40 years ago,” said the lawyer, George Bochetto. “He has engaged me to do everything possible to bring the facts forward to vindicate his name.”

Conlin, 77, is a widely recognized fixture of sports coverage in Philadelphia and known particularly for writing about the Phillies. He was also a regular panelist on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters show.

He received the 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award, which is awarded by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing” and presented at the Hall of Fame.

The Inquirer report includes accounts of Conlin’s alleged abuse and details confrontations between parents of victims and the writer, although no one ever called police at the time.

Conlin’s niece said she decided to finally tell relatives of her uncle’s abuse after he gave a eulogy at his wife’s funeral in 2009 and spoke of the couple’s grandchildren.

Worried about the children’s safety, the niece told her story and learned about some of the other alleged victims, the paper said.

The story, of course, comes on the heels of similar accusations made against a number of sports figures:

- Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was charged with 40 counts of sexual crimes against children. He has denied the assaults occurred. The scandal cost football coach Joe Paterno and other university officials their jobs amid scrutiny they didn’t do enough to prevent further abuse.

- Former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was accused by two former ball boys of abuse, but will not be charged in that case because the statute of limitations has passed. The Onondaga County District Attorney called the accusers credible.

- Two former basketball players recently accused former Amateur Athletic Union president Robert “Bobby” Dodd of molestation in the 1980s.

- And former U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics coach Don Peters was banned for life from the sport and kicked out of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame after he was accused of having sex with at least three young gymnasts in the 1980s.

Prosecutors in Gloucester County, New Jersey, took videotaped statements from the four alleged victims who have come forward to accuse Conlin of abuse, but can’t press charges because the alleged assaults took place before 1996.

The father of Conlin’s niece recalled confronting his brother-in-law after one of the alleged assaults and told the Inquirer the writer broke down crying and said he had “just touched her leg.”

The Inquirer said Daily News editor Larry Platt immediately accepted Conlin’s offer to retire. Platt told the Inquirer: “I can’t even begin to express the shock, sadness, and outrage I feel by what Bill Conlin is alleged to have done.”


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