Gerry Sandusky has never met Jerry Sandusky. There is no relation. The sports director for WBAL and the radio voice of the Ravens has only been in State College, Pa., once in his life, and that was 24 years ago.
But after the sex abuse scandal at Penn State involving former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, became a major national news story this past weekend, Gerry Sandusky watched fans and colleagues steer clear of him before Sunday night's game in Pittsburgh. His email inbox has been crammed with messages -- mostly positive -- and roughly 600-800 new people started following him on Twitter. And he is now taking proactive steps to let Baltimore sports fans know it's just an unfortunate coincidence.
“When you hear your name said on the news attached to a horrific crime, even though it’s not a relative of yours, it’s jarring,” Sandusky said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “For years I’ve always had to introduce myself as Gerry with a ‘G.’ My mom decided to spell my name with a ‘G.’ Thank God she did.”
Jerry Sandusky, 67, who spent three decades at Penn State before retiring in 1999, has been accused of molesting eight young boys over a 15-year span. He was arrested on Saturday. Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz have left their positions, and many are calling for president Graham Spanier and legendary football coach Joe Paterno to step down as well.
“It’s a very delicate thing because first and foremost, this is a horrific story,” Gerry Sandusky said. “If he is guilty of doing what he is alleged of having done, there are real victims that my heart goes out to.”
To a much lesser degree, the scandal has affected Baltimore’s Sandusky, who has received messages from angry, disgusted people who are looking for the Sandusky whose mother spelled his name with a ‘J.’ “I get the occasional ones that pop in there that are coming after me and attacking me,” Gerry with a ‘G’ said. “I’ll reply: ‘No relation.’” At the start of the Ravens’ 23-20 win over the Steelers on Sunday, Sandusky told radio listeners upfront he wasn’t related to the other guy. And during every story WBAL does on the Penn State scandal, anchors have to throw in the “no relation” disclaimer, too.
“What I have discovered is that there is this parallel universe of people who have the same name but no relationship to people who have committed or been alleged of committing heinous crimes,” he said. “Somewhere there is a plumber named Bernie Madoff. Somewhere there is a salesman named Ken Lay. And somewhere there is a truck driver named Charles Manson. And they’ve had to live with this.
“The part that’s really irritating: My dad was a great man. He coached in the NFL for five decades. He was a great family guy who was a terrific father and a great husband. And when he died, I took great pride that he left me a good name. And every Sandusky I’m related to and every Sandusky that I know, they’re good people and we take pride in our name. And to see this happen is just beyond bizarre.”
Sandusky doesn’t expect this story to blow over any time soon. He hopes people will feel comfortable approaching him again, though he understands why they have kept their distance. He asked his fans on Twitter to help him find a temporary nickname. But really, he just wants to reclaim his good name.
“I’ve got some really funny [nickname suggestions], but I haven’t found just the right one,” Sandusky said. “But at the end of the day, I’ve always liked my name. People like their name. I don’t really want to surrender it, but I don’t want to go through the rest of my life and career having to apologize for it.”
Nor is the Penn State Sandusky kin to Alex Sandusky, the All-Pro guard who played for the Baltimore Colts’ world championship teams in 1958 and 1959. Reached Monday, at his home in Florida, Sandusky said he was not related to the former PSU coach. Alex Sandusky, who attended Clarion State (Pa.), does have two grandchildren who attend Penn State.
Update: The name Sandusky continues to make rounds in the Baltimore area. Jim Sandusky, a Boy’s Latin assistant football coach who was quoted in Friday’s feature story on Notre Dame offensive lineman Dennis Mahoney, is not related to former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. He is, though, related to Gerry Sandusky.