Bill Conlin, sportswriter whose career ended amid sex-abuse claims

William T. Conlin
William T. Conlin
Posted: January 11, 2014

Bill Conlin, 79, a Hall of Fame baseball columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News who retired in 2011 in disgrace amid allegations that he molested children decades earlier, died Thursday, Jan. 9, at Largo (Fla.) Medical Center.

Mr. Conlin had been in failing health, including severe breathing problems, since June, said Zoe Roseman, a friend at the Shipwatch Yacht & Tennis Club, the condominium community where both lived.

The sex-abuse allegations were reported by The Inquirer in December 2011, five months after Mr. Conlin received the annual J.G. Taylor Spink Award, given to him by the Baseball Writers Association of America at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Hours before the story broke, Mr. Conlin retired. No criminal charges were pursued, because the statute of limitations in New Jersey had expired. The abuses were alleged to have occurred in Gloucester County, where Mr. Conlin lived before he moved to Florida, and in Atlantic County.

Mr. Conlin's four initial accusers, including a niece, told The Inquirer that they came forward because the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, which had just exploded publicly, brought back painful memories that had been shrouded in secrecy. Three other accusers subsequently emerged.

George Bochetto, Mr. Conlin's lawyer, said Thursday that his client was innocent. "These were just allegations. There was never proof whatsoever," Bochetto said.

Pat McLoone, managing editor of the Daily News, said in an e-mail: "Bill's career ended in disgrace. Speaking to his work, though, his writing was often brilliant. At a time before the Internet and sports-only TV channels, Bill Conlin's coverage in the Daily News was the primary source of information and analysis for a generation of Phillies fans."

William T. Conlin was born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. In his Hall of Fame speech, he said he was "bounced" from Bucknell University in 1954. He later graduated from Temple University. In 1960, he joined the sports staff of the Bulletin.

In 1965, he was hired by the Daily News. He became Phillies beat writer in 1966 and later a sports columnist regarded by many as the best in the city.

"Bill Conlin was one of the best sportswriters in America," Bochetto said.

His gruff demeanor was on display during his many appearances as a guest commentator on the ESPN program The Sports Reporters. He was the author of two baseball-related books, The Rutledge Book of Baseball and Batting Cleanup, Bill Conlin.

Roseman said that when she became president of the Shipwatch community - not far from the Phillies' spring-training complex in Clearwater - one of her responsibilities was writing a monthly newsletter.

"I didn't know how to write, and Bill said, 'I'll be your ghostwriter,' " she said. She would give Mr. Conlin facts, Roseman said, and "he would make beautifulness out of it."

Mr. Conlin's wife, Irma, died in 2009.

He is survived by a daughter, Kimberly McCall; sons Pete and William; and two grandchildren, the Daily News reported.

Mr. Conlin's body will be cremated, Roseman said.

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215

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