A Camden County jury on Tuesday awarded more than $1.5 million to former Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams in a civil case against MLB Network for his firing as an analyst in 2014 after disputed reports about his conduct at two of his 10-year-old son’s youth tournament baseball games.
“This verdict completely vindicates Mitch Williams, who was viciously defamed by anonymous sources on the Internet and then had MLB Network breach its contract with him,” said one of his lawyers, Laura Carlin Mattiacci, in a statement.
MLB Network said in a statement Tuesday evening: “While we respect the jury’s decision, we disagree with their conclusion and are reviewing all of our legal options. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Williams, known as “Wild Thing” when he was the Phillies’ closer from 1991 to 1993, took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to announce his victory: “To all of the people that have wondered where I have been for 3 years. today that answer was provided by a court of law #justice.”
Mattiaci’s law firm said in the statement that the jury rejected MLB Network’s claim that Williams violated the “morals clause” in his contract.
“The jury’s decision was based in large part on believing Williams’ version. The jury was charged with viewing all of the evidence and determining whether he committed acts that violated the morals clause,” she said in an email Tuesday night.
Williams filed his lawsuit in September 2014 after losing his job with MLB Network. His termination followed two reports about two youth baseball tournament games posted online by Deadspin, a sports news and gossip site.
One story alleged that Williams cursed loudly and was subsequently kicked out of a game between his son’s team, the Jersey Wild, and the Olney Pirates at Cal Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md. Williams was one of three coaches for the Wild.
A subsequent report from Deadspin about a second game alleged that Williams called a child a lewd name and ordered a 10-year-old to hit an opposing pitcher with a “beanball.”
In his lawsuit, Williams disputed the accounts of his conduct.
At the time, however, Williams apologized on Twitter: “I regret what happened at this weekend’s tournament & apologize. I love baseball & coaching.”
Williams alleged that MLB Network, based in Secaucus, N.J., insisted that he sign a contract that barred him from his children’s games. When he refused, he alleged, he was fired.
Williams also sued Gawker Media, which owned Deadspin at the time, but that part of the case was dismissed. Mattiaci said Williams settled with Gawker Media for a confidential sum.
News outlets reported in December that Williams was paid $125,000 as part of Gawker Media’s bankruptcy liquidation.