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.