July 9, 2012

HOVG Heroes: Dick Allen


ANDREW WOOLLEY on DICK ALLEN

Does Dick Allen belong in the Hall of Fame? If you listen to Dick Allen talk on the subject, it is obvious he doesn’t really care one way or the other.

If you ask to his former teammates, peers and coaches, most will answer… YES, he belongs.

My answer?  Absolutely.

So why? Why isn’t this guy already in Cooperstown? Most people will point to his attitude, his infamous reputation, or his rebellious nature. Rarely do his detractors point to talent or production. It is always something that happened off the field. Most of it is bullshit.

To me the nagging questions are this: What if Dick Allen had played in a different era? What if Dick Allen played in a different racial climate? What if Dick Allen had been trained on how to talk with the media? What if he played for a franchise that knew how to manage and protect star players? What if he enjoyed a fanbase not poisoned by decades of bad baseball?

I decided to sit down and change some things.

Dick Allen: A Career Edited

Little Rock Times - March 1963: Last week, at their spring training camp in Florida, the Philadelphia Phillies assigned minor league outfielder Dick Allen to the Little Rock Travelers. Allen is an African American. There has never been an African American professional baseball player compete in the state of Arkansas. In Little Rock, these events have caused heated reactions. In response to threats of violence, the Philadelphia Phillies have instituted a set of precautions designed to ensure the safety and protection of Dick Allen and peaceful Travelers fans.

“Fifteen years after Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier in Brooklyn, we have asked Richard Allen to help baseball take yet another step in the long journey of integrating our great game," said Phillies president Bob Carpenter. “This is America. As an organization we are committed to the security for our entire team. We will work with federal and local law enforcement to ensure the safety for all our players. I pray the law abiding fans of Little Rock will support us and enjoy a great summer of baseball in peace."

The club has contracted with private firm to deliver around-the-clock protection. This is in addition to increased game-day security already planned.

"When I look at our roster...I don't see black, white, purple or green. I see Phillies. Part of our responsibility to these young men is to ensure they can play baseball and live in a safe and comfortable environment."

Clearwater Herald - March 1964: In the last six seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies have employed 25 different third basemen. Searching for a convenient way to insert their promising 22-year-old rookie slugger Dick Allen into their lineup, the Phils spent the early weeks of spring training experimenting with Allen at third base. Today they have announced the decision to “pull the plug” on that experiment.

“Allen has spent his entire professional minor career in the outfield. He is a fantastic athlete. He was more than willing to help the team in any way he could and he made significant strides,” said Phils Manager Gene Mauch “but defensively, third base is such a demanding position. We felt it was in the best interests of the club and Dick to keep him at his natural position.”

“Dick Allen is a once in a generation player. We are very happy with him. We think he has potential to help our team this year. We want to get him as many at bats as we can,” added Phils General Manager Bob Quinn.

Philadelphia Post - October 1964: Making the most of his Major League opportunity, Phillies first year outfielder Dick Allen was awarded the National League Rookie of the Year this evening. Allen started in all 162 games of his rookie 1964 season, batting an impressive .318 while smashing 29 home runs and driving in 91 runs. For Allen, receiving the prestigious award, first awarded to Jackie Robinson in 1947, did not do anything to soften the blow of failing to capture the National League pennant.

“I would trade all the individual awards in the world for a chance to play in the World Series. To me, baseball is a team game. This award is really an award to my teammates and the season we just had. We fell a little short, but we will be back next season working to win it all"

The Phillies sat on top of the NL standings for most of the summer, before slipping in the last two weeks of the season. The club finished in second place with a 90-72 record.

Philadelphia Post - July 1965: The Philadelphia Phillies announced today that they have released veteran Frank Thomas. Thomas joined the Phillies in their pennant drive late in the 1964 season. The 35-year-old Thomas has delivered only 1 home run and 7 RBIs in 83 plate appearances this season The roster move follows an ugly pre-game altercation between Phillies teammates Johnny Callison, Dick Allen and Thomas.

According to witnesses: Callison and Allen were joking with Thomas regarding his failed attempt to bunt during their last game. Thomas got upset and lashed out at Allen with an offensive racial slur. Allen retaliated by punching Thomas. Before teammates could separate the two, Thomas swung a bat and hit Allen in the shoulder. It is not known if Allen was seriously injured. He played the entire game following the incident.

 Following the news of the move, Phils veteran Johnny Callison stated “I’ve been in this game for a long time. During a long season, it is not uncommon for teammates to argue…fights happen. It's not uncommon for a few punches to fly. But there is a code in baseball: You don’t swing a bat at another player. EVER.”

During the post-game press conference Phillies manager Gene Mauch said “after a thorough investigation of the incident, we have come to the decision to take our roster in another direction. We want to thank Frank Thomas for his contributions. I wish him luck.”

When asked about Allen’s contribution to the fight, Mauch added “I’ve talked to Dick. I can tell you he regrets this entire situation. Keep this in mind…. As talented as he is, Allen is still only a second year ballplayer. I can tell you this, Allen is one of the best we have on this team, but more importantly, Dick Allen is a proud man. He was standing up for himself... I believe he reacted just the way you or I would have."

“I assure you this," Mauch continued, "Dick Allen didn’t get Frank Thomas released…Frank Thomas got Frank Thomas released.”


Philadelphia Post - August 1967: Philadelphia Phillies All-Star slugger Dick Allen suffered a career threatening injury last night after he badly cut his hand and wrist working on his car. It happened following the Phillies/Pirates rain out. Outside his Philadelphia home, Allen began working on his old 1950 Ford. At some point he attempted to push the car from the curb, slipped on the wet road surface, and fell as his hand and wrist smashed the headlight. Following five hours of emergency surgery, the doctors at the hospital were guardedly optimistic.

Phillies public relations representative Larry Shenk “As an organization, we want to thank the great Phillies fans for their outpouring of concern and well wishes for Dick Allen. We especially want to send our prayers and well wishes to the entire Allen family as they cope with this accident. We look forward to having #15 return to the team and his rightful place as the backbone of our batting order.”

Chicago Courier - December 1971: Tonight, the Chicago White Sox completed a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, bringing former NL Rookie of the Year and perennial All-Star Dick Allen to the Sox in exchange for pitcher Tommy John. Allen started his career in Philadelphia as an outfielder and was converted to first base following an arm injury in 1967.

For the White Sox, Allen is expected to add some much needed power to the young White Sox lineup. Regarded as one of the top sluggers in baseball, Allen played six seasons with the Phillies before he was traded to the Cardinals following the 1969 season. He spent one season in Los Angeles.

Introduced at a press conference in Chicago, Allen smiled "I am excited about coming to Chicago and playing for the White Sox. I've spent my entire career in the National League. I look forward to learning and introducing myself to the pitchers in the AL. I can't wait to get started."

Chicago Courier - October 1972: Slugging Chicago White Sox first baseman Dick Allen was awarded the American League Most Valuable Player today. Allen produced a dominant performance in his first season in the AL, slugging a league leading 37 home runs while driving in a league leading 113 runs. With Allen leading the way, the White Sox surprised almost everyone as they contended for the American League Western Division title, finishing in second place at 87-67, missing out on the playoffs to the eventual world champion Oakland A’s.

Chicago Courier - September 1974: Tearfully addressing his teammates, White Sox first baseman Dick Allen surprisingly announced his retirement from Major League Baseball today. Citing lingering and nagging injuries to his shoulder and back, Allen confessed to his teammates “it wouldn’t be right to stick around and try to play. I know this team deserves more…I have had more fun playing here with you guys that I ever have anywhere in my career. I am proud to be a part of this team and I am going to miss you all very much."

White Sox manager Chuck Tanner commented: “I know he was hurting physically. I told him not to retire, to just let me sit him down, that I'd protect him. But he said he couldn't do that. I knew he was feeling a lot of pressure. The day after [announcing his retirement], when he came in to say goodbye, he told me he felt good, that it was like a piano was lifted off his head."

Philadelphia Post - May 1975: Seeking to add another bat and veteran influence to their young and powerful lineup, the Philadelphia Phillies have convinced former All-Star, Dick Allen to come out of retirement and join their club. Emotionally burnt out and plagued by nagging injuries, Allen retired from baseball last September after three seasons with the White Sox.

He was named the AL MVP in 1972. He missed half of the 1973 season with a broken leg. Despite missing the final three weeks of the 1974 season, Allen still led the American League in home runs.

“When I retired last fall, I really thought I was done. But the truth is, I still love to play this game and I really missed it. I feel great right now and the Phillies were very convincing. I am looking forward to playing with Mike Schmidt, Dave Cash, Greg Luzinski, and the rest of these Phils.”

To make room for Allen at first base, the Phillies also announced they have traded Willie Montanez to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for outfielder Garry Maddox. Phillies GM Paul Owens commented, “We are making these moves because we believe we can improve our club. I am very happy to welcome Dick Allen home to Philadelphia where he belongs.”

Philadelphia Post - May 1975: Greeted by a thunderous standing ovation from the capacity Veterans Stadium crowd as he jogged out to his position at first base to start the game, newly acquired Phillies first baseman Dick Allen immediately made his presence felt when he lashed a sharp single to center off Reds starter Pat Zachary. It was an electric and exciting night, as Steve Carlton and the Phillies shut out the Reds 4-0.

“It is great to be back in Philadelphia with this team and these fans," Allen said.  "I can’t really put into words how it felt to be welcomed in such a warm manner to the place I started my big league career. We have a very talented ballclub. I am excited to be part of this team.”

Montreal News - October 1976: For the first time in 26 seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies are headed to the baseball post season. Phillies starting pitcher Jim Longborg pitched a complete game and Greg Luzinski slugged a three run homer as the Phillies beat Expos 4-1 in the first game of a doubleheader. With nothing at stake, the second game featured a Phillies irregular lineup of bench players as the everyday starters sat back, relaxed, and celebrated.

Following the second game, veteran Phillies first baseman Dick Allen was beaming from ear to ear with his arm around Tony Taylor. “I’ve been in the majors for over a decade. I’ve been close, several times… but I’ve never felt this tremendous “championship” joy. I am just so happy to have had the opportunity to experience this, with this franchise. I’ve had so many great teammates over the years, but one in particular.  God Bless Tony Taylor. We have been through so much together in this game. I am just so excited for him. He deserves this.”

After the celebration and without a playoff roster spot available, the Phillies announced they have added veteran Tony Taylor to their coaching staff. Taylor will be in uniform and in the dugout when the playoffs begin.

Philadelphia Post - July 1994: The Philadelphia Phillies today announced they will retire uniform Number 15 in honor of the great Dick Allen. The slugging former All Star will also be inducted into the franchise “Wall of Fame”.

Allen played for the Phillies from 1963-1969 and returned for the 1975-76 seasons. He was their regular first baseman on the 1976 Eastern Division Champions.

Credited with helping change the course of baseball in Philadelphia, Allen was the first professional African American ballplayer in Arkansas history.

He was the first African American rookie to win a starting position with the club, and was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1964. That season he hit .318 with 29 home runs and 91 RBI. He led the league with 13 triples and 125 runs scored. Allen amassed a .292 career average with 351 home runs and 1,119 RBI over his 15 seasons in the Majors.

He is the only player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP not to be enshrined in Cooperstown. “I am humbled by this,” Allen said. “I want to take this opportunity to thank the Phillies and the fans.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Regardless of what his wife may think, Andy Woolley manages Dick Allen Hall of Fame in his spare time. Launched in 2004 as a way to pay homage to his childhood baseball hero; DAHOF now serves a window into the soul of this hopeless baseball addict.

In 1976,  Woolley set the single season Lakeshore Little League record for lowest batting average (.000) - a mark mathematically guaranteed to stand forever. A former US Marine, tech industry veteran and recovering Phillies fan, he Andy is also a passionate baseball photographer. His images have been published in books, newspapers, magazines and a growing stack of baseball cards.  After recently sending two kids to college, Woolley lives with his wife in their quiet and empty Austin, Texas home.

You can find DAHOF on the web, follow him on Twitter, and like him on Facebook. You can also browse Andy’s baseball photography on the web or Facebook.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

greatest baseball player ever