Golden Era Candidates Part 2: Dick Allen

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Veterans Committee Golden Era (1947-1972) Part 2: Dick Allen

by Dennis Keith Orlandini

Dick (Richie) Allen - Dick Allen or Richie Allen as he was known in his first years in the majors was as strong as an ox and hit some balls into parts of the Phillies’ Connie Mack Stadium and its environs that had never been reached before – uncharted territory.   

He had so much talent and the potential to put up even bigger numbers so why did his career flame out at age 35?  By age 34 in 1976 when the Phillies finally won their division for their first first-place finish since 1950, giving Allen and Tony Taylor some sense of vindication since they were the only players remaining from the “Greatest Collapse in history” team of 1964, Allen was merely a contributor and no longer a star (15 HR, 49RBI, .268). In his heyday, from 1964 to 1974, Allen seemed to alternate years that were merely good with years that were pretty awesome.  

He hit .300 seven times, led his league in slugging percentage and on base percentage twice each.  Allen reached 40 home runs once with the Phillies in
1966 setting a team record for right handed hitters in a big park with enormous dimensions and won two home run titles with the White Sox in the ‘70s and was the American league’s MVP in 1972 hitting .308 and leading the league in homeruns (37) and RBI (113). I suppose Allen was an adequate fielder at both third and first bases, but he didn’t earn his keep with the glove.  For fans it was the attraction of the Allen LONG SHOT, those truly legendary blasts that Dick Allen was all about.  

Look at Allen’s final career numbers.

He hit .292, with 351home runs and he drove in 1119 runs. Good numbers for the length of his career, but he played in only 1749 games and had 1848 hits. A 2,000 game and 2,000 hit career seems to be a prerequisite these days for the Hall Of Fame consideration unless there are special circumstances that prevented it such as the racial barrier in Minnie Minoso’s case or war-time military service that may have truncated a player’s career. 

Unfortunately, Allen had many other interests other than baseball. He collected classic cars and owned racehorses. I have to conclude that at times his mind wasn’t totally on the game. He was in supreme physical shape, one of the strongest players ever. If he had been more dedicated to the craft of baseball he might have played until he was 39 or 40 and hit at least another 100 home runs.

The City Of Brotherly Love Allen’s relationship with the Phillies and the city of Philadelphia is convoluted at best.  He’s worked with the team’s Public Relations and Special Events department in recent years.  Back in the late ‘60s, however he was demanding that he be traded and wanted out of the city.

Then in 1975 he was welcomed back for a second stint with the Phils and he was at least partially responsible for the Phillies taking a division title in 1976. Today his main support for Hall Of Fame election comes from the Phillies, their fans and Philadelphia sportswriters ON the positive side, Allen did have a tough road to hoe when he reached the Phillies in September 1963 and in his first full season with the team of 1964 when he was the National League’s Rookie Of The Year.  He faced racial taunts even in his home stadium in1963 when he played for the Phillies farm team of Little Rock, Arkansas and then was called up to a racially divided Philadelphia. Previously, Black Latinos Chico Fernandez, Tony Taylor, Tony Gonzalez, reliever Humberto Robinson and black Virgin Islander Tony Curry had been the only black players to have prominent roles with the Phillies. Allen became the Phils’ first American-born black star.

He entered the majors in an atmosphere where the city was barely able to keep a lid on its kettle of racial differences. One sensed that it could boil over at any instant and that with the smallest spark the city might explode.  On the negative side however, Bill James in his 1995 book “Whatever happened To The Hall Of Fame” claimed that Allen was the most divisive player to ever suit up in a team’s clubhouse.  Allen raised a number of beefs and issues with management AND THERE WAS ALWAYS THE “Allen Camp” and the “Anti-Allen” camp.  You were either for him or against him. “Clubhouse Cancer”?  I wouldn’t go that far, but some writers who covered him claim he was.   


ANALYSIS & DELIBERATIONS

There’s quite a lot of evidence against him that I’ve detailed above. You might think that my vote would be an emphatic “NO” to Allen’s Hall of Fame chances However, for the Class of 2015 and using not in the hall of fame’s standards my vote would be that Allen is probably a Hall Of Famer, but I wouldn’t vote for him at this time, because there are better candidates on the ballot that deserve election more.  Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m a Phillies fan, and I can’t forget those LONG SHOTS Allen hit onto Connie Mack Stadium’s roof that really got me excited about the game of baseball when I was a kid.

I can’t bring myself to say “NO” to his candidacy outright.  Of the 9 players on the ballot I’d rate Allen roughly in the middle in a virtual tie for fifth place with Tony Oliva.  Dick is ahead of Ken Boyer, Luis Tiant, and Billy Pierce in

My book. If not for Oliva’s hand injuries, which shortened his career, he’d be ahead of Allen, but things being as they are Allen and Oliva are about even. 

I’d have to rate the following above Allen:

Minnie Minoso: Racial & Ethnic Trailblazer for Black Latinos, who finished 2nd to Mickey Mantle in eight major offensive categories for American Leaguers in the period 1951-1961.

Gil Hodges: The heart and soul of those Brooklyn Dodgers teams of the 1950s – a slugger and an outstanding first baseman.  If the Dodgers hadn’t moved and Hodges played his entire career in Brooklyn, with their fan base, he might have been elected 15 to 20 years ago.

Jim Kaat: Three 20-win seasons, and 25 MLB seasons – supreme longevity – 283 wins. If the Phillies hadn’t converted him to a reliever when they did and let him stay in the starting rotation for another year or two Kaat would have been a 300 game winner.

Maury Wills: Wills in the National League AND LUIS APARICIO IN THE American league revolutionized the sport of baseball with their aggressive base stealing.  Instead of playing for a walk, a single and a three-run homer, managers now built runs with SPEED.  In the 1960s Wills took what Aparicio had started in the late ‘50s and took it three steps farther by

Reaching over 100 stolen bases in a season (1962), which was simply unprecedented. 


CONCLUSION

With the three year rotation of baseball eras for Hall of Fame Voting

(19th Century to 1946, 1947 to 1972, and 1973 to early 1990s) Allen’s candidate group will come up every three years. Unless I’m very much mistaken, if he’s not elected next month his name will not drop off the ballot three years from now.  He’ll gain momentum and maybe by the election for the Class of 2021, he’ll get in.

He wouldn’t be the worst guy to become a Hall of Famer via the Veteran’s Committee…not by a LONG SHOT.  


Last modified on Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:47

Comments   

0 #3 Jan Dinkins 2014-11-20 00:33
Very well written, pleasant to read. Thought you were the author, Phil...
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0 #2 Committee Chairman 2014-11-18 22:43
Agreed. This is a great piece.
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+1 #1 phil silverman 2014-11-17 03:27
hire this man! Orlandini can write! Allen and Minnoso are just 2 examples of under-repres ented superstars!
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