What's To Be Done With Bill Conlin?

In his latest missive, Murray Chass draws a parallel between Ryan Braun's failed drug test and the shocking allegations against legendary Philadelphia sportswriter Bill Conlin.

In the end, Chass does not agree with the arguments that Braun should be stripped of the MVP Award he just won. But Conlin's Spink Award -- the proof of which is displayed in Cooperstown for all to see -- is a trickier matter. Especially for the Hall of Fame, and for the BBWAA. Chass:

Conlin is a different issue and would take much more serious consideration. He is accused of committing an act far more abhorrent than using steroids or testosterone, and the writers should not be in the position of celebrating someone who allegedly is a child molester. But more time and more information are needed to sort out the sordid allegations and allow us to make an informed, intelligent decision. Conlin won’t have a trial, but he will have an opportunity to acquit himself. I’m skeptical, but I’m willing to listen.

As we all should be.

What else is going to happen, though? I mean, aside from more accusations? We've now got seven adults who say Conlin molested them when they were children, in the 1960s and '70s. Some of them told their parents at the time, and their parents haven't forgotten. Even if Conlin's innocent -- which seems exceptionally unlikely -- how would we ever know?

I'm sure that someone will mention that Conlin is "innocent until proven guilty."

In a court of law, yes.

This isn't a court of law. Nor is there likely to be one, ever; the statute of limitations on his alleged crimes has expired.

What we've got is a Court of Public Opinion.

We've also got, or will have at some point soon, a Court of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. And perhaps a Court of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, too.

See, the jurisdictions are a bit muddy here. The Hall of Fame itself, though the BBWAA is involved in the selection process, is purely under the purview of (you guessed it) the Hall of Fame itself. The Spink Award is something else entirely. While the winners are highlighted inside the Museum, they are not technically Hall of Famers and the award itself is controlled entirely by the BBWAA.

Essentially, the Hall of Fame and Museum has the power to remove Conlin's lovely photo from their environs, but only the BBWAA has the power to strip the actual award from Conlin.

Should they do it? Or rather, should we do it? I'm still a member in moderately good standing, so I might be asked to cast a vote on this matter at some point in the next few months.

Chass argues that molestation is "far more abhorrent than using steroids or testosterone, and the writers should not be in the position of celebrating someone who allegedly is a child molester."

Perhaps. But what if we discover that one of the players in the actual Hall of Fame did something far more abhorrent than using steroids or testosterone? Say, murder. Would the Hall of Fame seriously consider removing that player? I honestly don't know.

Of course, time plays a role here. Conlin just won the Spink Award. In the display in the Museum, he's featured. If Conlin were dead, or if he'd won the award 10 years ago, this whole sordid affair might be a three-day story. But now? With Conlin still around? With an extra-big photo of him in the Museum? With Jerry Sandusky still running free?

Right now, everything is so raw. If given a chance, I suppose I would split the difference. I would not rescind Conlin's Spink Award, but I would hasten to make him less visible in Cooperstown. We've got a new winner: Bob Elliott. Maybe it's as easy as making him the center piece of the exhibit a few months earlier than scheduled.

Or maybe Conlin should simply be defrocked. I don't have the answer yet. I do anticipate a spirited discussion. Which will be more than welcome.

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