Another accuser in Red Sox abuse scandal
$100m sought in Fitzpatrick case
Some of them are strangers to Fenway Park, faces from a distant past. But they continue to come forward, pouring out memories of sexual abuse they say they suffered at the hands of a trusted Red Sox supervisor.
The toll of men who claim they were violated as youths by the team’s late clubhouse manager Donald J. Fitzpatrick has grown again, with a former Kansas City clubhouse attendant, Gerald Armstrong, alleging that Fitzpatrick repeatedly molested him in the late 1960s amid the worst sexual abuse scandal in Major League Baseball history.
With Armstrong’s allegations, there are now 20 men demanding a combined $100 million — $5 million each — from the Sox for misconduct they claim Fitzpatrick committed from the 1960s until he left the team in 1991.
Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty in 2002 to four counts of attempted sexual battery against boys younger than 12 between 1975 and 1989 at the team’s former spring training headquarters in Winter Haven, Fla. He died in 2005 at age 76 while serving a 10-year suspended sentence.
Florida investigators said they linked Fitzpatrick to nine other alleged victims in Winter Haven but were unable to prosecute the cases because the statute of limitations had expired. Several of those men were among seven former clubhouse attendants who sued the Sox in 2001 for $3.15 million over Fitzpatrick’s alleged misconduct.
“Looking back, I’m not shocked that he continued to do to other kids what he did to me,’’ Armstrong said of Fitzpatrick, who joined the Sox as a batboy in 1944. “But I’m shocked the Red Sox continued to employ him for so many years.’’
Fitzpatrick was a favorite of the franchise’s longtime owners, Tom and Jean Yawkey. Over the years, he befriended other leaders throughout the game, from Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski to baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
Fitzpatrick’s case has proven troublesome for the current Sox owners, who bought the team from the Jean R. Yawkey Trust in 2002. In acquiring the franchise, John W. Henry and his partners assumed the team’s liabilities, and within months of buying the club settled the multimillion-dollar suit with the seven men in Winter Haven.
The Sox now are weighing the demands of Armstrong and 19 others who have come forward in the last nine months. The team’s attorney, Daniel Goldberg, issued a statement citing the 2002 settlement and reiterating his previous comments about the case.
“The Red Sox have always viewed the actions of Mr. Fitzpatrick to be abhorrent,’’ Goldberg said. “When the team, then 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 this particular individual whose claim dates back to the 1960s. Given the sensitive nature of the matter, we will not have further comment.’’
Because the statute of limitations has expired on nearly all the recent cases, the Sox have no legal obligation in the matter. But numerous entities, including the Roman Catholic church, have paid settlements to alleged victims who lacked legal standing.
“The Red Sox have a moral obligation to resolve these cases,’’ said Mitchell Garabedian, who won tens of millions of dollars for victims in the church scandal and represents the 20 men suing the Sox. “Resolving these cases will help the victims at least partially heal and maybe gain a degree of closure in regard to these awful matters.’’
Garabedian said he is investigating an additional claim against Fitzpatrick. He said another man dropped his claim because the process proved too emotionally painful.
Fitzpatrick left the Sox in 1991 after a man he had allegedly molested as a boy displayed a sign before a game in Anaheim that read, “Donald Fitzpatrick Sexually Assaulted Me.’’ The club paid the man a $100,000 out-of-court settlement.
In the current cases, many of the men say Fitzpatrick abused them at Fenway Park. Others allege he molested them in his car or his condominium in Randolph, and some accuse of him of abusing them while he was traveling with the Sox.
In March, two former batboys for the Baltimore Orioles claimed Fitzpatrick abused them in 1986 and 1990, respectively, at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.
Armstrong, 57, gave a similar account of his experience in Kansas City. In 1967, he was 12 years old and working as a clubhouse attendant at Municipal Stadium.
“I felt like a king,’’ he said. “Everybody at school gave me props because I had that job.’’
He worked for tips, shining shoes, hanging uniforms, and running errands for the likes of Yastrzemski, Mickey Mantle, and Frank Robinson. Life was good.
Then he met Fitzpatrick and soon found himself alone with the 38-year-old supervisor in a small room off the visitors clubhouse.
“He had this thing about wanting you to put him in headlocks,’’ Armstrong said. “He said he wanted to see how strong you were.’’
Armstrong said he was too young to fully understand Fitzpatrick was fondling him.
“He seemed like a good guy because he would give me $5 to put him in a headlock and get him a barbecue sandwich up the street,’’ Armstrong said.
He recalled Sox first baseman George Scott cautioning him about Fitzpatrick.
“I can remember him clearly saying something to the effect of, ‘Stay away from that guy,’ ” Armstrong said.
Scott, reached at his home in Mississippi, said he did not recall the 1967 incident or remember having concerns about Fitzpatrick.
In 1969, Armstrong, at 14, became a paid clubhouse attendant at Municipal Stadium. He said Fitzpatrick’s sexual abuse escalated as he went from fondling to performing oral sex on him in three separate incidents.
According to Armstrong, their final encounter occurred at the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City. He said Fitzpatrick promised him a Sox cap if he visited him at the hotel.
When Fitzpatrick became overly aggressive, Armstrong pushed him away, he recalled. He said there were no witnesses to any of the incidents.
“I was becoming a man and getting to the age where I could defend myself,’’ Armstrong said. “That’s when it ended.’’
After the ’69 season, Armstrong walked away from the Royals.
“Baseball was my dream back then, but Fitzy killed my whole desire for it,’’ he said.
Armstrong said he never reported the incident because he felt powerless, particularly because he was Kansas City’s only African-American clubhouse attendant. He also considered the subject taboo.
“Something like that was not discussed back then, especially in the African-American community,’’ Armstrong said. “If you said someone did something like that to you, you would be considered a homosexual.’’
Armstrong said he began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana soon after his experience with Fitzpatrick and has spent much of his life battling substance abuse.
“Just as I was becoming a man, Fitzy did that to me and stole my dreams,’’ Armstrong said. “I know I was suppressing the pain.’’
Armstrong said he came forward after he saw recent news reports about Fitzpatrick. The Globe’s policy is to not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Armstrong agreed to tell his story publicly.
Like some of Fitzpatrick’s other accusers, Armstrong said that while he is seeking financial damages, he also craves emotional peace.
“There’s nothing the Red Sox can do to go back and make this right,’’ Armstrong said. “Even if they issue an apology, what’s done is done. Nothing is going to erase my memory of it.’’