Dick Allen

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Dick Allen
First baseman / Third baseman
Born: (1942-03-08) March 8, 1942 (age 71)
Wampum, Pennsylvania
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
September 3, 1963 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Last MLB appearance
June 19, 1977 for the Oakland Athletics
Career statistics
Batting average.292
Home runs351
Runs batted in1,119
Teams
Career highlights and awards
 
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Dick Allen
First baseman / Third baseman
Born: (1942-03-08) March 8, 1942 (age 71)
Wampum, Pennsylvania
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
September 3, 1963 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Last MLB appearance
June 19, 1977 for the Oakland Athletics
Career statistics
Batting average.292
Home runs351
Runs batted in1,119
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Richard Anthony Allen (born March 8, 1942) is a former Major League Baseball player and R&B singer. He played first and third base and outfield in Major League Baseball and ranked among his sport's top offensive producers of the 1960s and early 1970s. Most notably playing for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox, he led the American League in home runs twice, and led both leagues in slugging average (the AL twice) and on base percentage. His .534 career slugging average ranks among the highest in an era marked by low averages. He won the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year and 1972 AL MVP. He also spoke his mind, combatted racism, and bucked organizational hierarchy. Sabermetrician Bill James rated Dick Allen as the second-most controversial player in baseball history, behind Rogers Hornsby.[1]

His older brother Hank was a reserve outfielder for three AL teams, and his younger brother Ron was briefly a first baseman with the 1972 St. Louis Cardinals.

Professional playing career[edit]

Phillies years[edit]

Allen hit a baseball with an authority Philadelphia fans had not seen since Chuck Klein and Jimmie Foxx. The Phillies saw his potential immediately and signed him in 1960 for a large $70,000 bonus. His career got off to a turbulent start as he faced racial harassment while playing for the Phillies' minor league affiliate in Little Rock; residents staged protest parades against Allen, the local team's first black player. Nevertheless, he led the league in total bases.

His first season in the majors, 1964, ranks among the greatest rookie seasons ever. He led the league in runs (125), triples (13), extra base hits (80) and total bases (352); he finished in the top five in batting average (.318), slugging average (.557), hits (201), and doubles (38); and won Rookie of the Year. Playing for the first time at third base, he led the league with 41 errors. Along with outfielder Johnny Callison and pitchers Chris Short and Jim Bunning, Allen led the Phillies to a six-and-a-half game hold on first place with just twelve games to play in an exceptionally strong National League. The '64 Phillies then lost ten straight games and finished tied for second place. The Phillies lost the first game of the streak to the Cincinnati Reds when Chico Ruiz stole home with Frank Robinson batting for the game's only run. In Crash, The Life and Times of Dick Allen, by Tim Whitaker, Allen stated that the play "broke our humps."[2] Despite the Phillies' collapse, Allen hit .438 with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs and 11 RBI in those last twelve games. A pennant win might have given Allen a realistic shot at winning that year's Most Valuable Player award.

Before scientific weight training, muscle-building dietary supplements, and anabolic steroids, Allen boasted a powerful and muscular physique along the lines of Mickey Mantle and Jimmie Foxx. Indeed, baseball historian Bill Jenkinson ranks Allen with Foxx and Mantle, and just a notch below Babe Ruth, as the four top long distance sluggers ever to wield a baseball bat.[3] A segment of MLB Network's Prime 9, aired February 7, 2011, concurred with Jenkinson's findings. On that same broadcast, Willie Mays stated that Allen hit a ball harder than any player he had ever seen. Dick Allen, like Babe Ruth, hit with a rather heavy bat. Allen's 40-ouncer bucked the Ted Williams-inspired trend of using a light bat for increased bat speed. Dick Allen combined massive strength and body torque to produce bat speed and drive the ball. 18 of his drives cleared Connie Mack Stadium's 65-foot-high left field Grandstand.[3] Twice Dick Allen cleared that park's 65-foot-high right center field scoreboard: a feat considered virtually impossible for a right-handed hitter.[3] Allen hit perhaps his most memorable Philadelphia home run off the Cardinals' Ray Washburn in 1965 when he cleared Connie Mack Stadium's left center field roof Coke sign. That home run, an estimated 529-footer, inspired Willie Stargell to say: "Now I know why they (the Phillies fans) boo Richie all the time. When he hits a home run, there's no souvenir."

Allen enjoyed several years in Philadelphia, where he was as good as any player in baseball, making All-Star teams from 196567 (in the latter of these three games, he hit a home run off Dean Chance) and leading the league in slugging (.632), OPS (1.027) and extra base hits (75) in 1966. Frank Robinson, the American League MVP, won the triple crown for leading the AL in home runs, RBI, and BA in 1966. Yet, Dick Allen had the better season per at-bat.

Non-baseball incidents soon marred Allen's Philadelphia career. In July 1965 he got into an infamous fistfight with fellow Phillie Frank Thomas. According to two teammates who witnessed the fight, Thomas swung a bat at Allen, hitting him in the shoulder. Johnny Callison said, "Thomas got himself fired when he swung that bat at Richie. In baseball you don't swing a bat at another player—ever." Pat Corrales confirmed that Thomas hit Allen with a bat and added that Thomas was a "bully" known for making racially divisive remarks. Allen and his teammates were not permitted to give their side of the story under threat of a heavy fine. The Phillies released Thomas the next day. That made the fans and local sports writers not only see Allen as costing a white player his job, but freed Thomas to give his version of the fight.[4] In an hour-long interview aired December 15, 2009, on the MLB Network's Studio 42 with Bob Costas, Allen asserted that he and Thomas are in fact good friends now.[5]

Even Allen's name was a source of controversy: he had been known since his youth as "Dick" to family and friends, but for reasons which are still somewhat obscure, the media referred to him upon his arrival in Philadelphia as "Richie", possibly a conflation with the longtime Phillies star Richie Ashburn. After leaving the Phillies, he asked to be called "Dick", saying Richie was a little boy's name. In his dual career as an R&B singer, the label on his records with the Groovy Grooves firm slated him as "Rich" Allen.[6]

Some of the Phillies' own fans, known for being tough on hometown players even in the best of times, exacerbated Allen's problems. Initially the abuse was verbal, with obscenities and racial epithets. Eventually Allen was greeted with showers of fruit, ice, refuse, and even flashlight batteries as he took the field. He began wearing his batting helmet even while playing his position in the field, which gave rise to another nickname, "Crash Helmet", shortened to "Crash".

He almost ended his career in 1967 after mangling his throwing hand by pushing it through a car headlight. Allen was fined $2,500 and suspended indefinitely in 1969 when he failed to appear for the Phillies twi-night doubleheader game with the New York Mets. Allen had gone to New Jersey in the morning to see a horse race, and got caught in traffic trying to return.[7]

Music career[edit]

Dick Allen was a true professional singer. He sang in a high, delicate tenor that belied his powerful body. The tone and texture of his voice has even drawn comparisons to esteemed Harptones' lead singer Willie Winfield. During Allen's time with the Sixties era Phillies, he sang lead with a doo wop group called the Ebonistics. Dick Allen and the Ebonistics sang professionally at Philadelphia night clubs. He once entertained during halftime of an NBA Philadelphia 76ers game. The Philadelphia Inquirer printed a review of his performance: "Here came Rich Allen. Flowered shirt. Tie six-inches (152 mm) wide. Hiphugger bell-bottomed pants. A microphone in his hands. Rich Allen the most booed man in Philadelphia from April to October, when Eagles coach Joe Kuharich takes over, walked out in front of 9,557 people at the Spectrum last night to sing with his group, The Ebonistics, and a most predictable thing happened. He was booed. Two songs later though, a most unpredictable thing happened. They cheered Rich Allen. They cheered him as warmly as they have ever cheered him for a game winning home run." Although his music career was not nearly as substantial as Milwaukee Braves outfielder Arthur Lee Maye, Dick Allen did gain lasting praise for a recording on the Groovy Grooves label titled, "Echoes of November." Echoes of November is featured in the Philles official hundred-year anniversary video and the novel '64 Intruder.

In 2010, Brazilian pop star Ana Volans rerecorded Echoes of November. Her rendition of Echoes of November sold briskly in Brazil. The CD's jacket contains a dedication to Dick Allen and his Hall of Fame candidacy.[8]

Tax controversy[edit]

Allen is known to tax law students as the petitioner in the famous case about his signing bonus, Allen v. Commissioner, 50 T.C. 466 (1968). After receiving a $70,000 bonus from the Philadelphia Phillies, he gave $40,000 to his mother. Allen attempted to avoid paying income tax on the $40,000. The court held he was both responsible for the taxes and not able to make a trade or business deduction for the amount.

Quick stops in St. Louis and L.A.[edit]

Allen finally had enough, and demanded the Phillies trade him. They sent him to the Cardinals in a trade before the 1970 season. Even this deal caused controversy, though not of Allen's making, since Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood refused to report to the Phillies as part of the trade. (Flood then sued baseball in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the reserve clause and to be declared a free agent.) Coincidentally, the player the Phillies received as compensation for Flood not reporting, Willie Montañez, hit 30-home runs as a 1971 rookie to eclipse Dick Allen's Phillies rookie home run record of 29, set in 1964.[9]

Allen earned another All-Star berth in St. Louis, and his personal problems seemed to abate. The Cardinals even acceded to his wishes regarding his name, as Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck made a point from game one of calling him Dick Allen.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst recalled that when he was asked, before Allen's acquisition, if he wanted Allen, he had said "no" because he'd heard Allen had a bad attitude, and the team didn't need him. After the season, when Schoendienst was asked if Allen should be traded, he said "no", since Allen had helped the team and his attitude was not a problem.

Decades before Mark McGwire, Dick Allen entertained the St. Louis fans with some long home runs, at least one of them landing in the seats above the club level in left field. As Jack Buck said at the time, "Some of the folks in the stadium club might have choked on a chicken leg when they saw that one coming!" Nevertheless the Cardinals traded Allen to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 1971 season for Ted Sizemore.

Chicago[edit]

After a relatively quiet year with the Dodgers, Allen was traded to the White Sox for Tommy John prior to the 1972 season. For various reasons, Allen's previous managers had shuffled him around on defense, playing him at first base, third base, and the outfield in no particular order—a practice which almost certainly weakened his defensive play, and which may have contributed to his frequent injuries, not to mention his perceived bad attitude. Sox manager Chuck Tanner's low-key style of handling ballplayers made it possible for Allen to thrive, for a while, on the South Side. He decided to play Allen exclusively at first base, which allowed him to concentrate on hitting. That first year, his first in the American League, Allen almost single-handedly lifted the entire team to second place in the AL West, as he led the league in home runs (37) (setting a team record), RBI (113), walks (99), on base percentage (.422), slugging average (.603), and OPS (1.023), while winning a well-deserved MVP award. However, the Sox fell short at the end and finished 5 ½ games behind the World Series–bound Oakland Athletics.

Allen's feats during his years with the White Sox—particularly in that MVP season of 1972—are spoken of reverently by South Side fans who credit him with saving the franchise for Chicago (it was rumored to be bound for St.Petersburg or Seattle at the time). His powerful swing sent home runs deep into some of cavernous old Comiskey Park's farthest reaches, including the roof and even the distant (445 ft) center field bleachers, a rare feat at one of baseball's most pitcher-friendly stadiums. On July 31, 1972, against the Minnesota Twins, Allen became the first player in baseball's "modern era" to hit two inside-the-park home runs in one game in an 8–1 victory. Both homers were hit off Bert Blyleven at Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium. On July 6, 1974, at Detroit's Tiger Stadium, he lined a homer off the roof facade in deep left-center field at a linear distance of approximately 415 feet (126 m) and an altitude of 85 feet (26 m). Anecdotal and mathematical evidence agreed that Allen's clout would've easily surpassed 500 ft (150 m) on the fly.[10]

The Sox were favored by many to make the playoffs in 1973, but those hopes were dashed due in large measure to the fractured fibula that Allen suffered in June. (He tried to return five weeks after injuring the leg in a collision with Mike Epstein of the A's, but the pain ended his season after just one game in which he batted 3-for-5.) Despite his making the All-Star team in each of three years with the team, Allen's stay in Chicago ended in controversy when he left the team on September 14 with two weeks left in the 1974 season. In Crash, his autobiography (co-written with Tim Whitaker), Allen blamed his feud with third-baseman Ron Santo, who was playing a final, undistinguished season with the White Sox after leaving the crosstown Chicago Cubs.[11]

With Allen's intention to continue playing baseball uncertain, the Sox reluctantly sold his contract to the Atlanta Braves for only $5,000, despite the fact that he had led the league in home runs, slugging (.563), and OPS (.938). Allen refused to report to the Braves and announced his retirement.

Final playing years[edit]

The Phillies managed to coax Allen out of retirement for the 1975 season. The lay-off and nagging effects of his 1973 broken leg hampered his play. His numbers improved in 1976, a Phillies division winner, although he only played in 85 games. He continued his tape measure legacy during his second go-round with the Phillies. On August 22, 1975, Allen smashed a homer into the seldom reached upperdeck at San Diego's Qualcomm (née Jack Murphy) Stadium.

He played his final season with the Oakland Athletics in 1977.

Retirement years[edit]

After retirement, Allen had a string of bad fortune, with his uninsured house and horse stables burning down in October 1979. He subsequently left his wife for a younger woman; his wife took him to court and got everything he had left, even the rights to his baseball pension. He has written (with Tim Whitaker) an autobiography titled Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen, which Bill James has called "one of the best baseball books in recent years". For many years Allen held the distinction of the highest slugging percentage among players eligible for but not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This only ended in 2006, when Albert Belle became eligible but was not elected. Whether Allen is worthy of the Hall of Fame has been hotly debated, with many people arguing he is the best player not in the Hall.[12] The arguments usually center around his very high career averages, batting (.292), slugging (.534), and on-base (.378). They also point out that he began his career during the mid-1960s, a period so dominated by pitchers that it is sometimes called the "second dead ball era". Allen also played some of his career in pitcher-friendly parks such as Busch Memorial Stadium, Dodger Stadium, and Comiskey Park. [13]

Detractors of his Hall of Fame credentials argue that his career was not as long as most Hall of Famers, so he does not have the career cumulative numbers that others do. They also argue that his poor defense and bad clubhouse presence took away from his teams much of what his bat gave them.[14] But according to the two managers for whom Allen played the longest – Gene Mauch of the Phillies and Chuck Tanner of the White Sox – he was not a "clubhouse lawyer" who harmed team chemistry. Asked if Allen's behavior ever had a negative influence on the team, Mauch said: "Never." According to Tanner, "Dick was the leader of our team, the captain, the manager on the field. He took care of the young kids, took them under his wing. And he played every game as if it was his last day on earth."[15]

2008 Hall of Fame inductee Rich Gossage confirmed Tanner's view during ESPN's interview show with Gossage and Dick Williams. Gossage talked about how Dick Allen had worked with him to learn more about the league's hitters, to help make him a more effective pitcher. Also in 2008, another of Allen's ex-White Sox teammates, pitcher Stan Bahnsen, said, "I actually thought that Dick was better than his stats. Every time we needed a clutch hit, he got it. He got along great with his teammates and he was very knowledgeable about the game. He was the ultimate team guy." [16] Another Hall of Fame teammate, Mike Schmidt, credited Dick Allen in his book, Clearing the Bases, as his mentor. In a Mike Schmidt biography written by historian William C. Kashatus, Mike Schmidt fondly recalls Dick Allen mentoring him before a game in Chicago in 1976, saying to him, "Mike, you've got to relax. You've got to have some fun. Remember when you were just a kid and you'd skip supper to play ball? You were having fun. Hey, with all the talent you've got, baseball ought to be fun. Enjoy it. Be a kid again." Mike Schmidt responded by hitting four home runs in that game. Mike Schmidt is quoted in the same book, "The baseball writers used to claim that Dick would divide the clubhouse along racial lines. That was a lie. The truth is that Dick never divided any clubhouse."

Quotations[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Inline citations
  1. ^ James, Bill (2001). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Free Press. p. 438. 
  2. ^ Whitaker, Tim. Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen, page 55. Ticknor & Fields, 1989
  3. ^ a b c Jenkinson, Bill (2007). The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. Carrol and Graf. 
  4. ^ Wright, Craig R. :"Dick Allen: Another View", SABR's Baseball Research Journal vol. 24, 1995, republished with permission at http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=11&id=2065
  5. ^ MLB Network's "Studio 42 with Bob Costas", hour-long interview with Dick Allen first aired December 15, 2009.
  6. ^ http://wwww.youtube.com/watch?V=EJDDS7ohpJk
  7. ^ "Today in Baseball History June 24th". www.nationalpastime.com. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  8. ^ www.anavolans.com.br
  9. ^ www.baseballref.com
  10. ^ Jenkinson, Bill: The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Homeruns, Carrol and Graf, 2007
  11. ^ Allen, Dick and Whitaker, Tim: Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen, pages 148–151. Ticknor and Fields (a Houghton Mifflin Company), 1989.
  12. ^ http://www.expressfan.com/dickallenhof/
  13. ^ http://www.h-net.org/~hns/articles/2005/080805a.html
  14. ^ http://www.baseballcrank.com/archives2/2002/05/baseball_cansec.php
  15. ^ http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=11&id=2065
  16. ^ http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=11&id=3729
Bibliography

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Preceded by
Pete Ward
Topps Rookie All-Star Third Baseman
1964
Succeeded by
Paul Schaal