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How can we even think about what the Bill Conlin story means for the Hall of Fame?

Dec 22, 2011, 10:52 AM EDT

Bill Conlin AP

I’ve tried really hard to not think too deeply about what the Bill Conlin allegations might mean for the Hall of Fame. For a couple of reasons, really.

For one thing, the Spink Award, which makes Conlin “a Hall of Famer,” isn’t really an induction into the Hall of Fame. It’s really just the inclusion of his photo and bio in a broadcaster and writer exhibit in the museum. Yes, it’s an honor, but the conversation about “should Conlin be removed from the Hall of Fame” is kind of beside the point. No offense to the other Spink winners, but if they do anything to him it’s more akin to taking a guy’s picture off the Employee of the Month display than it is like taking Jefferson’s face off Mt. Rushmore.

But really, the largest reason this conversation seems inappropriate is that it seems really wrong to use what is the most awful and nightmarish thing imaginable — child abuse — as a means for pivoting into what is basically a political argument about the nature of the Hall of Fame.

Yes, like a lot of people, when I immediately heard the news about Conlin I thought “well, what does THAT mean for the Hall’s character clause?” But it was a fleeting bit of defense mechanism snark before the enormity and awfulness of the news set in. With a few moments’ reflection, the notion that there is any kind of appropriate equivalence to be drawn between steroids and a player’s induction and molestation and a writer’s exclusion is just too difficult to get my brain around. I will argue about almost anything if given the chance, but I can’t, at the moment anyway, make those kinds of analogies with anything approaching gusto.

Some are, though. And that’s fine. My issues with this are my issues with it. I’m a father and I’m not objective so I don’t trust myself to bring anything approaching reason to bear on the matter.  The best I can say is that, rather than anyone rethinking the character clause for future Hall of Fame inductees, the Conlin stuff is more likely to make the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame look for ways to drum people out after they are inducted or honored, as the case may be.

I have no faith, however, that whatever happens will be well-considered. This kind of stuff inspires the exact opposite of reason in people. And that, in turn, inspires rash and ill-considered acts.

  1. Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 22, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Now, if Conlin was sharing Chipper’s “PED and cocaine on rye” sammich from your other post, then they’d REALLY toss him on his kiester.

    • El Bravo - Dec 22, 2011 at 3:31 PM

      That PED wasn’t just any PED, it was HGH, which has a nicer flavor to it when mixed with coke. ….errr so I hear.

    • paperlions - Dec 22, 2011 at 3:48 PM

      Conlin and steroid users are the same, both are PED-ophiles.

  2. narrabeen23 - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    jason hit it right on the head. if he was found to have been using PEDs he would’ve been out by now. Alas, he only abused children so he should be alright…

    • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:10 AM

      Who gives a shit if he won some journalism award that gets his picture on a wall? Really, that is so far removed from any relevant issue in this case it is ridiculous. Anybody trying to make this situation about morality as it relates to the baseball HOF should be smacked upside the head until they gain a bit of perspective.

      • danrizzle - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:21 AM

        Please don’t hit me upside the head, but I don’t think the question raised is a question regarding “any relevant issue in the case.” Of course the Spink award and whether or not something should be done with it doesn’t affect any relevant issue in the actual case. The issue is whether something should be done with his Spink award, which is a much smaller issue than the actual molestation allegations. And on that much smaller issue, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing BBWAA eat a little crow for its memberships’ constant over-application of the character clause in HOF voting.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:24 AM

        Dr.MonkeyArmy is a nonviolent being so I won’t smack you upside the head. I just think there are more important issues at hand in this case and focusing debate on whether he should be stripped of a journalism award is ridiculous to me.

  3. Old Gator - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    I’m a father and a grandfather so I ought to have similar issues about positing analogies here, but I’m also an occasionally rational being – I would entertain accusations of being only infrequently rational without flinching – but I think that one comes to ill-considered conclusions about this kind of thing precisely by invoking one’s own rootedness in hearth and home.

    Regardless, I’m all for invoking character clauses when the issues become extreme. The important thing, of course, is that the clauses be sufficiently unambiguous to act upon them. This doesn’t mean that you need to enumerate a list of offenses that runs on for a shelf full of AmJur volumes. Part of that is because if you’re going to honor a person who proves to be dishonorable – to say the least – you’re making such a joke out of the original gesture of appreciation and/or reverence that it becomes meaningless in the first place. Even the high epopts of the NCAA, may they rot in fascist hell for all sorts of other transgressions moral and aesthetic, understand this well enough to confiscate trophies and awards in retrospect, and for a host of far more trivial reasons. If your organization has set standards of behavior in advance and discovers in retrospect that those standards have been violated, I fail to see the problem of determining that you have granted an award to someone who has earned it under false pretenses relative to the terms of having won it in the first place and revoking it. I fail to see where the logical contradiction intrudes.

    • Jonny 5 - Dec 22, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      But Gator, The BBWAA already said that even though there are these allegations, he still “earned” the award, which he’ll keep. Now with that said, since when was there a morals clause attached to journalism? After reaching the ripe age of ____ I’ve found it may even be the opposite actually. Sure they can demand this of others, but themselves? Never. Conlin is a good example I’d say. (end sarcasm directed at the majority of journalists in the world)

  4. Jonny 5 - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    The thing this raises in me is sickness, loathing, and fear. I don’t give a damn about the HOF implications. This guy got to live his life as if he did nothing wrong and pretended to fit that bill. WTF….

  5. hushbrother - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    How will we ever know the truth, anyway? Conlin’s accusers say he’s guilty. Conlin denies it. One might reasonably wonder why the accusers would make up their stories, and perhaps the fact that the thing isn’t going to court precludes the rest of us from presuming his innocence. But I’m not really comfortable doing that. Whatever the BBWAA decides to do will reflect its own comfort level on the issue.

    • dluxxx - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:56 AM

      It isn’t going to court because it is passed the statute of limitations. That certainly doesn’t make him innocent.

      • bleedgreen - Dec 22, 2011 at 3:23 PM

        But why did they wait so long? You’re POSITIVE this wasn’t about payback for something else?

  6. humanexcrement - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    I can’t remember the last time I saw the word “enormity” used correctly and not used to mean “enormousness” (it doesn’t). Just throwing that out there.

    • danrizzle - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      Meaning is use, man. I think “enormity” as used to refer to great size or breadth, without specifically referring to awfulness or horribleness, is now a part of English.

      • fearlessleader - Dec 22, 2011 at 12:49 PM

        Humanexcrement beat me to it. Yay Craig!

  7. nategearhart - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    I get pretty aggravated every time I read something to the effect of “If he had been using steroids they would kick him out” or something to that effect – something comparing Conlin’s deeds to players using steroids. (I’m fine with users in the hall). I just like to think we’re better than that.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      While I agree that the analogy doesn’t hold water, you have to admit that the public and writers reactions to the two seem to be inversely proportional to the crimes.

      • nategearhart - Dec 22, 2011 at 12:28 PM

        I just can’t help but think the statement at least occasionally is implying “Hey, at least one of you is a child molester, so now you HAVE to vote in Jeff Bagwell! Yay!”

  8. umrguy42 - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Just to stir the pot – OJ Simpson is still in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    *Should* the MLB HoF remove him, or take away the award? Maybe. I think what Craig is getting at is, the fact that his pic & bio are in the Hall are irrelevant to whether he committed a heinous crime.

  9. Jonny 5 - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Well the web of sickness unravels some more…

    http://www.crossingbroad.com/2011/12/two-more-bill-conlin-victims-come-forward.html#more

    • dluxxx - Dec 22, 2011 at 12:47 PM

      Thumbs down simply because this makes me sick.

  10. kingjoe1 - Dec 22, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    It really is a shame that we have all passed judgement, based on one side of the story. I guess this is why CNN is so darn successful.

    • dluxxx - Dec 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      I think there is enough people coming forward telling such eerily similar stories that there really is only one side to the story. Conlin has done absolutly nothing to dispute the charges or claim his innocence. But if you really want to stand there and try to defend the guy feel free to. But really, have you even read any of the accusations? This guy appears to be very sick, and yes, these are “allegations.” The fact that nobody can do anything about it is what makes me sick. Almost as sick as the allegations make me.

      • schrutebeetfarms - Dec 22, 2011 at 12:59 PM

        “But if you really want to stand there and try to defend the guy feel free to.”

        He doesn’t have to defend anyone. In this country, no matter how much people like to ignore it constantly, there is a presumption of innocence. Someone is innocent until proven guilty.

        Are the stories sickening? Yes. You know what else was sickening. The stories coming from the Duke Lacrosse case. Remember, the one where people were railroaded because other people jumped to conclusions based on accusations and stories that were unfounded and dishonest.

        Is this story true? I haven’t a clue. But I’m smart enough to realize that I don’t know the entire story or who is telling the truth and therefore reserve any judgement. Unfortunately, in today’s society with the internet, twitter etc, someone’s career & life can be ruined by someone simply making a false accusation. I would prefer to not be a part of that.

      • paperlions - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        The presumption of innocence is a legal perspective and a legal perspective ONLY. Ignoring the legal perspective in real life is standard. Would you presume an accused (but not convicted) child molester was innocent and let them watch your kids? Of course not.

      • 78mu - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:37 PM

        I don’t think anyone wants to defend Conlin. I know I don’t. But I do want to find out more before making a decision. I, like most people here, only know Conlin from reading him in the paper and have no idea about his family or personal life. I can’t think of any innocent reason these people could have to make the charges but then I don’t know the accusers any more than I do Conlin.

        I remember the child abuse stories about the McMartin preschool and Fells Acres day care center from the 1980s. There were lots of stories that were similar and it made me sick to think what happened to those kids. Only later did it come out what the therapists did to extract the false stories the kids told prosecutors.

        Bob Costas was on the radio recently and he told the story of how Richard Jewell personally thanked him for being the only person in the media that did not convict him when he was arrested.

        More recently there is the Duke lacrosse case. I sure thought those guys were guilty when the first stories came out.

        I don’t know if Conlin is guilty or not. If he is I hope he rots in hell and is prosecuted to the extent that the law allows. But there’s a reason we have courts and don’t rely on lynch mobs for justice. There will be plenty of time to condemn Conlin as more facts come out.

      • schrutebeetfarms - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:47 PM

        Well said 78mu.

        paperlions – no I would not want an accussed child molester watching my children. The point I was trying to make, and 78mu may have made it better than I, is that we as a society are way too quick to judge. Just because someone is accused does not mean they are guilty.

        And since I do not know this person personally, Inever would have considered him to watch my children before these accusations came out. From an outside perspective, of which I believe we all are looking through, I have no reason to automatically condemn this man.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM

        78MU, I think you need some perspective here actually.

        There are not children having false stories extracted. These are adults telling people the abuses they allege Conlin did to them as children.

        There are multiple people coming forward with witnesses to their stories, since apparently there was confrontations in the past within the family, and known acquaintances. This would have to be multiple people all agreeing to lie about this man for what? He’s past the statute of limitations, he can face no criminal charges. Monetary compensation? Doubt it after all these years, plus I doubt he’s what would be considered “wealthy”. This is people wanting to get the story out there so other people know this man is a monster. With that said, we should never jump on the bandwagon with pitchforks until we know the whole story, but I’ve heard enough to jump on it myself and there’s room for anyone else. Just remember truth doesn’t always prevail in a court of law. I’m sure Craig or any other lawyer who defended those being prosecuted can honestly tell you they couldn’t put a number on how many guilty people were found not guilty in a court of law. Just because the verdict says “not guilty” doesn’t mean it’s true.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong for being cautious about this, just thought I’d give my two cents on this case, which seems to me to be pretty damning.

      • 78mu - Dec 22, 2011 at 4:08 PM

        Johnny:

        My perspective is that I don’t know any of these people and I only know what’s been reported in the days since the story came out. I won’t make a judgement based on the apparent lack of motive from the accusers. It’s just that I remember other sensational stories the press jumped on that didn’t turn out the way they were portrayed at first.

        Put a gun to my head and I’d say he is guilty based on what has been reported. But I don’t have to decide and judging him now doesn’t change anything. I hadn’t planned on letting him babysit my kids or invite him to a Christmas party and I doubt anyone else here was either. I just don’t want to make a rush to judgement one way or another since a lot more will undoubtedly come out over the next few months.

        And while these accusations may have occurred outside the statute of limitations, child molesters don’t usually stop at a certain age so there could very well be incidents that do fall within the SoLs.

    • paperlions - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      “A lie ain’t a side of a story. It’s just a lie.”

      –Terry Hanning

  11. tashkalucy - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Well now…..

    I can see why this kid Calcaterra has a law degree but does rumor mongering for a living.

    Do law schools no teach that we draw conclusions of people life’s work when someone makes charges against them? We don’t wait to see the evidence or hold a trial?

    OK, so Calcaterra is a lawyer that isn’t. he’s also a journalist that isn’t.

    Hey Craig, what’s up with the Kardascian’s? How about Bachlorette #4?

    • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      Your act is exhausting.

      • tashkalucy - Dec 22, 2011 at 6:12 PM

        Someone has to stand up for decency, intelligence and maturity in an environment that so obviously has none.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 23, 2011 at 9:41 AM

        Are you being serious? Your comments possess none of the characteristics you describe.

  12. neelymessier - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    The reason OJ is not analogous is because his crimes were committed long AFTER his NFL career. Had he done it in say the 10th or 11th year of his career, he would not have been elected. Conlin’s “alleged crimes” happened while he was having the career that got him the award.

    Like several others, I am a parent, but I also believe in due process. I don’t know if the statute of limitations on civil actions have passed, but if they have, he is presumed innocent, regardless of any speculation about the accuser(s) motivations. If he were to lose a civil trial for these allegations, I would revoke his award, but failing that, the fat man stays.

    • tashkalucy - Dec 22, 2011 at 6:40 PM

      You call people fat and it’s no problem as it’s obvious.

      I call people immature, quick to judge with no evidence which is also obvious, and I get flamed.

      Not to worry. Americans have failed critical thinking for decades. If they didn’t this country wouldn’t be in the worst shape since the Great Depression with nothing but blind hope that things will improve.

      Ah, living life with the Internet cable TV and computer games.

  13. neelymessier - Dec 22, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20111220_Four_say_Philly_Daily_News_writer_Bill_Conlin_sexually_abused_them_as_children.html

    In reading this, it is clear that several family friends and relatives are telling similar stories. If I were a betting man, I would wager there is definitely something to these allegations. Shame on all of the parents of these children for not filing police reports. But as a minor consolation, I don’t think Uncle Bill will be getting his fat butt anywhere near a child again.

    • xmatt0926x - Dec 22, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      Neely, Thank you for finally bringing up the most imprtant point. Can anyone on these blogsites read?? I keep hearing people say “why did they wait so long?” in some kind of quasi-defense of Conlin. They didn’t wait so long! They told their family members when it happened and Conlin was confronted several times. Guess what happened? Their disgraceful parents were too gutless to go to the police and challenge the well known local sportswriter, end of story. Yeah, I know these things were kept quiet moreso back in those years but it’s no excuse. How do you let someone get away with what he did? So please people, think about it, god forbid. These people said something when they were just 7 or 12 years old and their parents let it go. Then you have the horrible memories in your head for all these years and the stigma it brings. Is there no understanding at all why these people then hid it away for years? who knows what finally made one of these victims snap and open up. Maybe it was all the Penn State stuff in the same area and maybe that opened up some major wounds for one of these people. How many times have we read about victims coming forward only after being inspired by someone else doing it first? Go read the Deadspin article and the philly.com stuff and Conlin doesnt exactly deny anything. The way I read it (especially the deadspin emails) is that he can’t believe these women are daring to bring this stuff up after 40 years. Sucks for you I guess Conlin.

      • xmatt0926x - Dec 22, 2011 at 3:55 PM

        Just as a side note , according to Philly.com , the # is now up to 6. Wow, all these conspirators trying to somehow frame poor Bill Conlin….

  14. schmedley69 - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    There are now at least 6 victims who have come forward, and it’s highly doubtful that there is some kind of conspiracy or vendetta at work here. It appears that Conlin is a serial child molester who has had a negative impact on a lot of innocent lives. It’s a shame that he won’t be spending the rest of his life behind bars. Stripping him of the Spink Award would probably be a small consolation for the victims, but at least it would be something. I’m sure it was hard for them to watch this guy being honored on a national stage earlier this year. I think it’s pretty safe to say that receiving that award was one of the greatest moments in Conlin’s life, and having it taken away would be a huge blow for him. If I had kids and wanted to take them to the HOF, I sure as hell wouldn’t want them to see an exhibit honoring a child molester.

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