Red Sox clubhouse abuse scandal grows
8 more accuse late team official
Eight more men have made sexual abuse allegations against former Red Sox clubhouse manager Donald J. Fitzpatrick, in what has become the worst sexual abuse scandal in Major League Baseball history.
The eight men, including two former batboys for the Baltimore Orioles, have come forward since two former Sox clubhouse attendants accused Fitzpatrick in December of sexually abusing them as teenagers at Fenway Park. The allegations, when added to similar allegations levied decades ago, bring to 20 the number of men who have accused Fitzpatrick of molesting them between the 1960s and 1990s.
Fitzpatrick, who worked for the Sox from 1944 to 1991, was convicted in Florida in 2002 of attempting to sexually assault four youths at spring training between 1975 and 1989.
The statute of limitations has expired for legal action, so the most recent accusers are each seeking $5 million in damages from the Red Sox. The former Baltimore batboys also are seeking $5 million each from the Orioles for allegedly failing to prevent the abuse at Memorial Stadium, the team’s home prior to Camden Yards.
Fitzpatrick, a favorite of former Sox owner Thomas A. Yawkey, died in 2005 at age 76 while serving a 10-year suspended sentence for the Florida crimes.
“The evidence indicates Donald Fitzpatrick sexually abused children in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Florida,’’ said Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who represents the 10 recent accusers. “The question arises, where else? We believe this is the tip of the iceberg.’’
The Red Sox responded to the new allegations by issuing a statement they released about the claims in December. The team’s current owners, who in 2003 settled a $3.15 million suit with seven of Fitzpatrick’s alleged victims, find themselves in the unwelcome position of addressing complaints that predate their purchase of the team in 2002.
“The Red Sox have always viewed the actions of Mr. Fitzpatrick to be abhorrent,’’ the club’s lawyer, Daniel Goldberg, said. “When the team, under a previous ownership group, became aware of the allegations against Mr. Fitzpatrick in 1991, he was promptly relieved of his duties. . . . The club is unaware of any specifics regarding the matters brought forward recently by these individuals but, given the sensitive nature of the matter, will not have further comment.’’
A spokeswoman for the Orioles said the team notified Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s office about the allegations but would make no public comment.
Selig, who owned the Milwaukee Brewers before he became the full-time commissioner in 1998, was one of many friends Fitzpatrick made in baseball. A spokesman for Selig said the commissioner would not comment on Fitzpatrick or the allegations.
Several of Fitzpatrick’s alleged victims said in interviews they felt empowered to come forward amid the increased awareness of the sexual abuse of minors by authority figures. The recent complaints follow highly publicized allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Also contributing to a culture of awareness was Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s disclosure last year that he was sexually abused as a 10-year-old at a summer camp on Cape Cod.
Garabedian said he is engaged in discussions with the Red Sox about the latest allegations and expects to begin similar talks with the Orioles. Because the statute of limitations has expired in the recent cases, the men are barred from seeking criminal charges or filing civil lawsuits. They are appealing to the Sox and Orioles to follow other institutions that have compensated victims of sexual abuse after statutes of limitations have expired.
In 2002, Garabedian obtained a $10 million settlement for 86 individuals who were sexually molested by the late Catholic priest John Geoghan as early as the 1960s. Garabedian later helped negotiate an $85 million settlement with the Archdiocese of Boston for hundreds of individuals who said they were abused by more than 40 other priests dating to the ’60s. The statute of limitations had expired in many of those cases.
“It’s incumbent on the Red Sox to do the right thing,’’ Garabedian said. “Resolving a sexual abuse claim allows a victim to try to heal and gain some closure.’’
Five of the eight men who have come forward since December allege Fitzpatrick sexually abused them at Fenway Park. Another alleges he was 12 years old and playing youth baseball when Fitzpatrick, portraying himself as a Sox scout, enticed him to his condominium on Bittersweet Lane in Randolph with promises of equipment and memorabilia, then molested him.
The Globe does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, but one of the Baltimore batboys, Ronald Shelton, 38, of Laurel, Md., consented to go public.
Shelton and the other former Baltimore batboy, a 42-year-old federal security worker who spoke at length to the Globe, said there were no witnesses to their alleged abuse, and though they shared their stories about Fitzpatrick with each other more than 20 years ago, they did not come forward until they learned of the two Boston men accusing Fitzpatrick in December.
“It was the first time I heard about this happening to somebody besides me and my friend,’’ said Shelton, a medical records employee at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “I got upset. I felt like I knew exactly what those people went through.’’
The Baltimore accusers have no criminal record or history of making similar allegations. Social Security records show they worked for the Orioles during the time of the alleged incidents. Both served as batboys for the visiting teams at Memorial Stadium.
Shelton said he was alone in an equipment room before a game on June 15, 1990, when Fitzpatrick walked in, closed the door, and sexually molested him.
“Good man,’’ Fitzpatrick told him afterward, according to Shelton, who was 17 at the time. Fitzpatrick was 61.
The other alleged Baltimore victim said he was 16 when he found himself alone in the equipment room with Fitzpatrick in 1986. He said he had asked Fitzgerald for a smaller pair of uniform pants than the Sox had provided. He alleged Fitzpatrick shut the door, sexually abused him as he tried on a new pair of pants, then said, “You be good.’’
“I knew what that meant: shut up,’’ the alleged victim said.
The former Baltimore batboys said they chose not to report the incidents in part because they were among the first African-American batboys employed by the Orioles.
“I felt isolated and scared, and I didn’t know if they would believe me or get rid of me,’’ the security worker said. “The odds were against me.’’
Four of the 10 men who recently came forward said in interviews that Fitzpatrick’s alleged abuse has caused them an array of problems, including nightmares, self-doubt, and low self-esteem.
“I can still see his gray eyes looking at me and him saying, ‘Good man,’ ’’ Shelton said. “I did not deserve what happened to me.’’
Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.