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Spink Award winner, accused child molester Bill Conlin dies

Jan 10, 2014, 9:32 AM EDT

Bill Conlin AP

Bill Conlin, the 2011 Spink Award-winning writer who fell into disgrace after being accused of child molestation five months after receiving his award, died in a hospital in Largo, Florida yesterday.  He was 79.

Conlin spent five decades covering sports for Philadelphia newspapers. For those of us outside of Philly, he is best known as a fixture on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” from its inception until a few short years ago. Conlin was smart. He was frustrating. He was combative. He was funny. Before his retirement he was, like a lot of aging writers, increasingly out of touch. Occasionally, though, you could see his sportswriting brilliance shine through, even near the end. His winning of the 2011 Spink Award came long after he had lost his fastball as a writer and, in many ways, was a gold watch for years of service from the BBWAA.

But anything one can say about his professional legacy was blown away when, in December 2011, it was revealed that niece had accused Conlin of molesting her when she was a child. The accusation came in the form of a complaint to police, as his niece became concerned about children related to Conlin being in his presence. Due to statute of limitations issues no charges were ever filed against Conlin, but eventually three other complaints were made against him. After the allegations, Conlin withdrew from the public eye and spent his final two years on Earth in disgrace.

If the allegations against Conlin were true — and to date there has been nothing to contradict them — he was nothing short of a monster.

  1. nategearhart - Jan 10, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    Screw that guy.

  2. NYTolstoy - Jan 10, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    “If the allegations against Conlin were true — and to date there has been nothing to contradict them — he was nothing short of a monster” Couldn’t agree more Craig. Let the fires burn my friend.

  3. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Conlin was an arrogant ass – talented, and all the other things Craig said, but extremely arrogant. I suppose after hearing your own hype for a long time, an inflated ego comes with the territory. Arrogance, though, is not that big a deal in the grand scheme. All the things he was accused of are.

    I, for one, fully believe his nieces story, as well as the others that came forward. He never could clear his name because the facts were against him. He will be remembered as a monster.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      I always thought he was such a condescending doosh when he was on Comcast Sports Night. Used to turn it off if I saw him on the panel.

  4. largebill - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Tells you all you need to know about the BBWAA that LaBatard lost his HOF vote as punishment for using crowd sourcing to complete his ballot but Conklin remained a member in good standing. If a single member of his profession said a bad word about him I missed it. However, many have run their mouth with great vitriol calling LaBatard all sorts of names.

    • Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      Beat me to it.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      Do you not see a difference in the authority of the Association on these two matters? Is there a morals clause in the BBWAA membership rules? I’m not saying that they did the right thing with LeBatard, but you’re comparing apples and oranges there.

      I’m pretty sure I’m going to regret even wading in on this later…

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        I believe his larger point was that – authority of the BBWAA aside – no one rushed to publicly castigate Conlin, and pedophilia is certainly many degrees more heinous than Lebatard’s attention-seeking stunt.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        He specifically mentioned the voting privilege and membership issues. That is not about public castigation.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        I certainly read it as partly about public castigation but we can agree to disagree.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        And, I did not disagree with that part. My comment was specific.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        I agree that the BBWAA may well have had no institutional mechanism with which to address Conlin’s alleged misdeeds.

      • Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        More like a comparison between apples and fly agaric mushrooms, I would think. Anyway, it wasn’t a comparison. It was a contrast.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        As a contrast, it does not work either.

      • Reflex - Jan 10, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        Historio is technically correct here, but its an unpopular view because the alleged crimes are so heinous.

        I always feel sorry for defense attorneys. You have to have thick skin to put yourself in the line of fire like that even though your job is quite noble.

      • indaburg - Jan 10, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        So, there’s no morals clause to be a member of the BBWAA yet they are tasked with judging the morality of baseball players entering the Hall of Fame.

        Something just isn’t jibing.

    • floriojr - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      I brought up this hypocrisy in my comment yesterday.. I haven’t said Bill Conlin’s name in a year and then I bring him up yesterday and he dies the same day.. I think I killed him. Third time this has happened now. Maybe I should talk about Ruben Amaro Jr.

  5. sandrafluke2012 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    RIP. This guy had a family.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      And by “family,” you mean “victims.”

      • Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        No, she means his niece….

      • sandrafluke2012 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        Do you know whats in his heart? Do you know what he really did?

      • historiophiliac - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        Oh, you bleeding heart instigator.

      • deathmonkey41 - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        You guys are just cretins. It’s not his fault. He really wanted to be a Catholic priest, but his family pushed him into sports writing.

      • Reflex - Jan 10, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        Sandra – Liberals like you are why OJ escaped justice.

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 10, 2014 at 4:21 PM

        deathmonkey41 – Jan 10, 2014 at 2:59 PM
        You guys are just cretins. It’s not his fault. He really wanted to be a Catholic priest, but his family pushed him into sports writing.

        Ok we can shut down the internet for the day. It’s already been won.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      You mean the same family he molested? Or another one

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        I believe she was referring to his brotherhood of pedophiles. Their family to each other because no one else wants them.

        Rest In Eternal Agony.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        ahem, ‘they’re’

    • drewzducks - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      Coming from a dime store whore I’d expect nothing less.

    • karlkolchak - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      Roast in Pieces, maybe..

  6. jlinatl - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    The way that it ended was terrible for everyone involved:

    1. The Accusers-By not coming forward (and I don’t blame them at all), there was no chance to see justice done if he was guilty. And if Conlin was guilty, he deserved a whole lot worse than retirement in the Keys.

    2. For him- For the same reason, there was no chance at truly defending himself. It was accusation not proof. Who is going to believe a denial. That being said, it was hard not to believe the neice. There should be a special place in hell for anyone that abuses a child. Our collective feeling in that area makes us very quick to convict in court of public opinion. Even those predisposed to giving the benefit of the doubt.

    3. Readers-He was at one time a good writer, albeit from another era. I grew up reading him and was sickened when I read the reports. I would disagree with DelawarePhilliesFan in that I don’t think he will be remembered as a monster because I don’t think he will be remembered at all. Sports reporting has changed so much that the reporters from that era are less than a decade from being completely forgotten… but that is a different discussion.

    Whereas my own predisposition is to believe anyone that would come forward to make the accusations the niece did, I wish it would have gone to court, been fully vetted and justice been served here on earth.

    • Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      It couldn’t have been by the time they filed their complaints. The statute of limitations had expired. This was indeed unfortunate, but not untypical. The case of that kid in Texas (where Neandertal genes are still dominant) who reported being raped and was expelled from her school for moral turpitude is a good example of why, in addition to the trauma of the act itself, people often wait so long to say anything.

  7. autmorsautlibertas - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Rot in Hell Conlin

  8. crazy8sportscards - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    RIH Conlin! Should’ve offed yourself 40 years ago.
    Best part of his death is that he had a colon infection. Hope it was as painful as the pain you caused many!

  9. chill1184 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    There is a special place in hell for those who commit crimes against children.

  10. planck16 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    First off, this guy is scum. Any association he has with baseball should be removed, his award rescinded. Ridiculous we hammer guys for PEDs but this guy is allowed to ride off in the sunset on his own free will. If his name is in Cooperstown, then it needs to be removed or have a nice * next to it highlighting what he did to build awareness around child abuse.

    Second, this is nuts that we talk more about baseball writers than actual baseball players. Baseball writers were a big deal before the internet and every game was broadcast, now anybody with a WWW address and internet connection can put a decent blog together on baseball topics. No offense Craig, but your job isn’t that hard compared to these guys in the 50s and 60s who wrote and it is a whole lot less meaningful these days because there are 1000s (yes 1000s) of people who do what you do. These writers are mostly ego-driven non-baseball playing bookworms who have put themself into the game through force and fear. Who cares about the writers? Who cares what they say? Why do they get a vote over me? I know more about the game than they do, I can guarantee that playing and coaching in college for many years. I choose to read on my own and will read anything on baseball, who cares who writes it.

    The votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame should come from the players, so guys who don’t have the stats, but were damn good players can be recognized and the guys who have the stats are automatic.

    I love baseball, believe it is the most pure game with no limits of time or score, but this is crazy that we talk about writers and PEDs more than the actual game.

  11. delusionalcardsfan - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    RIP. This guy had a family.

    And he fingered them! EFF THIS CHO-MO!

  12. hojo20 - Jan 10, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    I liked him on the Sports Reporters.

  13. aphillieated - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    Haha burn you fat piece of….

  14. nickynick04 - Jan 10, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Nothing to contradict the allegations
    Excuse me
    I’m the US of A the burden of proof is on the State…
    there is no evidence to prove he did it is more correct

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 10, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      In a court of law the burden of proof is on the state. However, since no charges were ever filed, Craig’s wording is correct.

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