Interview: Bob Huber on Bill Conlin’s Final Days

april-2014-cover-315x399-220x300The April issue of Philly Mag features Bob Huber’s “The Last Days of Bill Conlin,” an examination of the decline and fall of the legendary Daily News baseball columnist who retreated from the public eye after child molestation allegations emerged in 2011. Conlin died last year.

Huber spoke this week to about how he reported the story, the demons haunting Conlin, and whether Conlin should retain the sportswriting award he received from the Baseball Hall of Fame before the allegations became public.

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The Last Days of Bill Conlin


Illustration by Eduardo Recife

A year and a half ago, I flew down to Largo, Florida, and knocked on Bill Conlin’s door. It was early evening, and I couldn’t tell if he was home or not. Nobody came to the door. I thought I heard a TV, though. I knocked again.

Conlin had been the baseball beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News for two decades, starting in 1966, then wrote a regular column for the DN for an even longer stretch, until the end of 2011. He was the city’s most-read sportswriter, and was nationally known via a long stint on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters as the fat guy waving his coffee cup in high-volume arguments that were often brilliant, or at least amusing. In the summer of 2011, he was inducted into the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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Will Bill Conlin Retain His Spot in Baseball’s Hall of Fame Until July?

Bill Conlin won J.G. Taylor Spink award last summer for his achievements as a baseball writer. Thus, his portrait hangs in Cooperstown amongst the greatest names ever associated with America’s pastime. After recent allegations that Conlin molested a number of children in the 1970s, some people are wondering about his place in the Hall of Fame. Conlin’s mug is scheduled to remain in the hall until replaced with the 2012 winner in July. Not everybody seems to be thrilled about that idea. [New York Times]

Philadelphia’s Worst People of 2011

Sure. Accused pederast Jerry Sandusky contributed plenty of headlines in 2011, but State College is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from these parts. And we’ve got plenty of our own creeps, miscreants, and, well, just people we don’t like very much to go around. Here, in absolutely no particular order, the people who contributed the most to Philly’s bad PR over the last year.

1. John Bolaris
The associate-degreed weatherman would have been appropriate fodder for a worst of list prior to last week’s suspension, and we’re still a little foggy on why he bothered to come back after his five-year Storm of the Century exile in the first place. We really don’t care about the weather or his lack of credibility in reporting it. We just think that he’s a real, well, a real prick. Read more »

The Way of the World Before “To Catch a Predator”

This holiday season has been a reminder that as sports have become all-encompassing in our lives—24-hour news, fantasy leagues, gossip websites—we’ve lost much of the escapism that following our favorite teams used to offer. Kicking back with a cheesesteak and some suds to watch a Phillies game used to be a break from the harsh realities of the world outside the lines. This week, though, if you went online to read Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin’s take on the Jimmy Rollins deal, there’s a good chance you were sidetracked—and blindsided—by a very different story. Four adults, including Conlin’s niece, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the award-winning baseball writer sexually molested them as children. Since that report ran, two more alleged victims have stepped forward. It’s damning, devastating stuff. Read more »

District Attorney Seth Williams Urges Victims to Come Foward

Philly’s District Attorney Urges Victims to Come Forward. In the wake of allegations against Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine and now Bill Conlin, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams made a statement urging victims—and their parents—to report sexual abuse, or abuse of any kind, to the proper authorities. The suggestion comes after Conlin’s accusers waited 40 years to admit their abuse, making it so that they’ll never see justice and Conlin never has an opportunity to clear his name in court. [Inquirer]

Predators Playing “Jailbait” Game. Predators are looking for underage girls in chatrooms. Then, they’re trying to convince them to strip and perform other acts while recording them on a webcam. The predators get points for certain plateaus of achievement like getting a girl to wave or take off her top. Then, the videos are posted to a website where the predators compete for content, quantity, and physical attractiveness of the girls in their video. [FOX 29]

‘Jailbait’ Dangerous New Game Online:

Police Issue Amber Alert, Find Mother and Son. A mother allegedly took her son—of whom she does not have custody—while the boy’s father had stepped out for a cigarette at a Ruby Tuesday. The woman was allegedly caught on tape fleeing from a mall with the boy. Police found the two of them at the ferry port in Delaware. [NBC Philadelphia]

12 Million Motrin Bottles Recalled. McNeil Consumer Healthcare has been plagued by product recalls this year. Most recently, they’ve issued a recall on 12 million bottles of Motrin from wholesalers. If you purchased a bottle at a store you should be okay. [Philadelphia Business Journal]

18-Year-Old is Missing $172,000 Violin on a Megabus. This is why we can’t have nice things. A young woman is hoping the holiday spirit will find her $172,000 violin back in her possession shortly. The Taiwanese student won the instrument for being selected by a foundation to advance her skills in the art. She studies music in Boston, took a Megabus back to Philly, and was told her violin wasn’t in with the luggage when she got here. [CBS 3]

Newtown Doubles Property Taxes. Officials in Bucks County’s Newtown have decided to raise property taxes 50 percent. The change—the first of its kind in the last 16 years—will cost homeowners approximately an extra $120 per year. [Inquirer]

Should Statute of Limitations for Abuse Victims Be Changed?

In February 1997, I pulled into the parking lot on North Broad Street for my first day of work at the Daily News. Looking up at the imposing white tower was exhilarating. The thought of working in the same building with some of the journalism giants who I grew up reading made all the long ponderous nights covering zoning and school board meetings at other Podunk papers worthwhile.

One of those giants was Bill Conlin, who for decades made it compelling to read all about the Phillies losing. I can’t say Conlin was a hero, but I greatly admired the toughness and honesty in his writing. So the news that Conlin has been accused of molesting four people when they were kids 40 years ago is still hard to fathom. Read more »

96 Percent of Children Who Report Sexual Abuse Are Telling the Truth

First, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing a series of children over decades. Now, even closer to home, Daily News sports writer Bill Conlin—a local legend—is accused of molesting kids decades ago. But after all the coverage, are any of us better prepared to protect our own children or recognize suspicious behavior on the part of the adults in our midst?

In Philadelphia, the Joseph J. Peters Institute, a non-profit mental health agency focused on sexual abuse, tries to counsel sex offenders and educate the public to prevent further victims. I spoke to Michael Stinson, director of prevention services at the Peters Institute, to try and figure out what we should take away from these recent, tragic stories. Read more »

Two More Claim Conlin Molested Them

Sixth Alleged Conlin Victim Comes Forward. Two additional women have come forward alleging that Bill Conlin molested them during their childhoods. Both of the additional alleged victims were friends with Conlin’s children in the ’70s. [NBC Philadelphia]

A.J. Daulerio’s Email Exchange With Conlin. Gawker editor and former Philly Mag staffer A.J. Daulerio has stayed in contact with Conlin since writing a feature on the former Daily News columnist for Philadelphia magazine. Conlin and Daulerio exchanged a number of emails leading up to the publication of Deadspin’s piece on the Inquirer article alleging abuse. [Deadspin]

Three Alleged Conlin Victims Hire a Lawyer. Three of the alleged victims of abuse by Bill Conlin met with Slade H. McLaughlin—a lawyer at McLaughlin & Lauricella, the firm that represents one of the alleged Sandusky victims. McLaughlin said that his clients hired him to deflect media attention because they do not wish to file lawsuits or gain any notoriety in relation to the Conlin scandal. [Philadelphia Business Journal]

Claude Giroux, Claude Giroux, Claude Giroux. The Flyers forward must have heard Philly fans saying his name three times while looking into the mirror because he seemed to have returned out of nowhere. Last week he was listed as “out indefinitely” with a concussion and the city was panicking thinking he’d go the way of Chris Pronger. But, last night Giroux returned to the ice and notched a goal and three assists to reclaim his spot atop the NHL points leaders as the Flyers downed the Stars 4-1. [Inquirer]

Police Still Searching For Mother of Girl in the Box. Yesterday morning authorities began the search for the mother of a newborn baby girl. The girl was found in a box on the street in North Philadelphia with the umbilical cord still attached. Police say that they’re concerned for the mother’s health, but haven’t ruled out filing charges if she’s found. The baby girl is doing well. [CBS 3]

Three Undercover Officers Injured in Crash. Three undercover police officers and a civilian were all seriously injured in a car accident last night. The officers were en route to their headquarters when they turned on their sirens in the middle of an intersection. A car t-boned the officers’ vehicle and slammed it into a telephone poll. [6 ABC]


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