Third Sex Abuse Lawsuit Filed against Babe Ruth League, Revered Staten Island Coach

By Kyle Lawson
SI Live
September 10, 2019

Former Staten Island baseball and basketball coach Tony Sagona is now named in three lawsuits claiming he targeted, groomed and sexually abused players.

In a complaint filed this week in state Supreme Court, St. George, the latest accuser claims he was abused from 1975 to 1977, during his time as a player in the Great Kills Babe Ruth League. The New Jersey-based parent organization also is named in the lawsuit.

“I had dreams of being a pro ball player, and I had the ability to do it, (but) things went downhill," said the complainant, Timothy Morey, in a recent telephone interview with the Advance.

Morey grew up on Staten Island and had a home address in the borough until he recently moved to North Carolina.

Sagona moved to New Jersey decades ago, following a near decade-long period in the 1970s when accusers say the abuse occurred. He’s now regarded as a successful Amateur Athletic Union basketball coach, who helped propel several high-school age players to professional careers.

When asked in August about the first two lawsuits levied against him, Sagona said, "I don’t even know where that would come from or what that’s about ... it’s ridiculous.”

His attorney declined to comment Tuesday on the most recent suit.

The Babe Ruth League headquarters in New Jersey has not responded to a request for comment Tuesday.

Alleged grooming process

In a recent telephone interview, Morey described himself as a dominant pitcher on Staten Island, throwing a 93-mph fastball in high school.

“Sagona was the guy you wanted to play for back in the day, because the guy knew the game and if you were serious about playing, which I was, you wanted to be the best," recalled Morey.

He eventually got his chance when Sagona was recruiting players for an elite team that Morey said included multiple future professional players.

According to the lawsuit, the grooming process began when Morey was 14 years old, and Sagona, who was a respected figure among adults in the community, would build him up with compliments. Then, on some occasions, touch his leg and inner-thigh.

A year later, 1976, Morey was named a member of the “upper team," which is when he said the touching advanced to sexual contact. According to the suit, Sagona “coerced and/or manipulated” the teenager into performing acts of oral sex in the basement of Sagona’s Great Kills home.

“Following the completion of the sexual act, Sagona gave $100 without any statement,” the suit reads.

Morey said he quit Sagona’s team when he was 17 years old, followed by what he describes as a years-long emotional meltdown when he distanced himself from teammates who had become close friends, and abused drugs and alcohol.

“I was going to high school not caring,” said Morey. “Lonely. Miserable. Feeling different, feeling dirty.”

Similar stories

A pair of lawsuits were filed last month against Sagona, alleging he sexually abused two other players in the 1970s during his tenure with the Great Kills Babe Ruth League and St. Patrick’s School basketball team.

“Mr. Sagona groomed them, preyed upon them, used his position of authority and trust within the Catholic Church and within Babe Ruth League baseball to select them, remove them and abuse them," said attorney Bradley Rice, who is representing the complainants.

The lawsuits are being filed during a year-long window established by state legislation under the Child Victims Act that allows alleged victims of any age to pursue civil action.

A former basketball player at St. Patrick’s said he believes he was targeted by Sagona, in part, because his father had abandoned the family.

“He took advantage of me when I was looking for love in a father figure,” said Bruce Morrison in an interview last month with the Advance. "I was robbed of that. Not once, but twice.

Most of the abuse against Morrison occurred in Sagona’s Great Kills home, involving mutual masturbation and oral sex, the complaint alleges.

AAU career

Over the past few decades, Sagona has become a respected figure within AAU basketball, an elite league for high-school ballers that’s helped propel many players to the NBA.

Former AAU player Kyle McAlarney -- who played for Notre Dame, then pro-ball in Europe -- said recently that he never witnessed or heard any accusations of Sagona acting inappropriately with players.

“Nope. Never," said McAlarney, before ending the conversation.

In a 2013 NBC Sports report, Sagona was celebrated for his high ethical standards in a league wrought with controversy.

His accusers say the experiences with the coach sparked mental and emotional suffering for many years after.

"We’d like to raise awareness for any victims of Coach Sagona...” said Rice in a recent press conference at his offices in New Jersey. “'Your voice can be heard. There is justice available and you don’t have to sit in the shadows anymore.'”








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.