Tuesday, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin resigned his position amid allegations of child molestation. Conlin, 77, was this year's J. G. Taylor Spink Award winner. The allegations became public Tuesday morning, and Tuesday afternoon Philly.com published a story by the Inquirer's Nancy Phillips, detailing the molestations of four children -- three girls and one boy -- that allegedly happened in the 1970s:
In vivid accounts, the four say Conlin groped and fondled them, and touched their genitals, in assaults in the 1970s, when they were from ages 7 to 12.
"This is a tragedy," said Kelley Blanchet, a niece of Conlin's who said he molested her when she was a child. "People have kept his secret. It's not just the victims, it's the victims' families. There were so many people who knew about this and did nothing."
Conlin retired Tuesday from the Daily News, where he had worked for more than four decades.
Through his lawyer, George Bochetto, Conlin declined to comment.
"Mr. Conlin is obviously floored by these accusations, which supposedly happened 40 years ago," Bochetto said. "He has engaged me to do everything possible to bring the facts forward to vindicate his name."
Blanchet, now a prosecutor in Atlantic City, and the others said they were speaking out now because the alleged sexual assaults and cover-up at Pennsylvania State University brought back painful memories, and reminded them of the secrecy that shrouded their own assaults.
There will be no prosecution, as the statute of limitations on such crimes would have expired many years ago. Still, the allegations have obviously made Conlin's highly visible role with the Daily News untenable.
Conlin, born in Philadelphia, first began covering the Phillies regularly in 1966. Over the following decades, he established himself as one of the business's more bellicose columnists, which was perfectly in keeping with his audience. Like many sportswriters of his generation, Conlin hasn't taken kindly to Internet upstarts. In 2007, he opined that for all of Adolf Hitler's many faults, at least "he would have eliminated all bloggers." Also in 2007, Conlin engaged in a long-running and vituperative e-mail exchange with Phillies blogger Bill Baer. And Conlin didn't come out looking better for the exchange.
On the other hand, last January Conlin wrote a sensible piece -- uncommonly sensible, whether from him or anyone else of his generation -- arguing that the Hall of Fame's "morals clause" was too amorphous and haphazardly applied to justify keeping Jeff Bagwell out of Cooperstown. Granted, Conlin still argued against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro because they dissembled in their Congressional testimonies. But in questioning the utility of the morals clause, Conlin at least attempted to move the argumentative bar a little.
Of course, in the light of Tuesday's news, anything Conlin has written about morals -- including this piece about Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno -- will take on a somewhat different tinge.