“Better late than never” Dick Allen 1942-2020

By George Castle CBM Historian
and David Fletcher, CBM President
December 7, 2020

“Better late than never” truly defined Dick Allen’s baseball life.

“Late,” but properly credited, can sum up Allen’s epitaph. The man who likely saved the White Sox for Chicago with his Most Valuable Player season in 1972 died at 78 on Monday, Dec. 7, after a long illness in Wampum, Pa., Allen’s hometown. And now the statistical perspectives will come forth to show Allen is Hall of Fame worthy — unfortunately, posthumously.

Allen was the controversial slugger recognized as one of the game’s best all-around players — a seven-time All-Star, an MVP winner (1972), and a Rookie of the Year winner (1964 — in his 15-year career spanning an era of pitching dominance. Yet decades later the clearer eye of history could put his performance and his impact on baseball in a more proper perspective. He was a man ahead of his times who overcame racism with dignity and grace.

When Allen was on top of his game, he was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball. During the 10 seasons between 1964 and 1973, Allen had an Adjusted OPS (OPS+) of 165, which was the highest-ranking OPS+ in the majors during that decade. That figure was greater than 11 Hall of Famers who played during that era, including No. 2 Hank Aaron (161), No. 3 Willie McCovey (161), No. 5 Harmon Killebrew (152), No. 6 Willie Stargell (152), No. 7 Roberto Clemente (151), No. 8 Mays (148) and No. 10 Al Kaline (140.)

During that decade-long span, Allen averaged 29 homers and 89 RBIs while hitting .299 with a .940 OPS (on base Percentage + slugging percentage.) Only Aaron’s .941 OPS was better over that span.

Dick Allen holds 1972 MVP award at the June 2012 tribute to Allen at US Cellular Field

Dick Allen holds 1972 MVP award at the June 2012 tribute to Allen at US Cellular Field

Allen should have been honored continually on the South Side for his 1972 Most Valuable Player season that teamed with broadcaster Harry Caray to save the White Sox for Chicago. But not until 40 years later was Allen properly recognized for his heroic one-man show in a special tribute and retrospective press conference at US Cellular Field set up by the Chicago Baseball Museum in June 2012.

The man tagged with the nickname “Richie,” after Phillies demigod Richie Ashburn, and not his preferred Dick, was Philadelphia’s first star African-American baseball player in 1964, almost a decade after top players of color broke through in many other big-league cities. He produced, but had clashes aplenty and was booed. Both the Phillies fans and front office did not really know what they had. Time travel to pandemic-upended 2020 before the Phillies franchise properly honored Allen and retired his No. 15 with the Phillies on Sept. 3 at Citizens Bank Ballpark. Allen finally got the apology and redemption from the City of Philadelphia he had deserved for a half-century.

Time heals almost all wounds

Allen was perceived both as savior and villain in Philadelphia and Chicago. But that’s the nature of baseball. Time heals almost all wounds.

Always his own man, possessed of his own sense of wanderlust, Allen could scarcely fit into the conservative baseball mold of the 1960s. Thus, he ran afoul of accustomed norms, some of which frowned on African American players speaking up for themselves or displaying any streak of independence.

Justice gained late is still justice. In 2020 at Citizens Bank Ballpark, 65-year-old Phillies managing partner John Middleton channeled his 9-year-old baseball-fan self into 2020. “I remember it was the first time I’d ever heard someone described as a phenom and dared dream and even expect that my Phillies could win the pennant and eventually the World Series,” he said. “It was the moment my fandom turned into a passion.”

Middleton engineered the ceremony that allowed the City of Philadelphia to finally honor and even apologize to Dick for how he was mistreated.

Middleton recalled his halcyon days at nine, summering in 1964 on the Jersey Shore. “I was crushed when Dick in 1969 was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals… In my idolization of Dick, I have been anticipating this moment for over 50 years. Now that is here. I am excited. Really excited…. Retiring Dick’s number is a really big deal for the Phillies, Philadelphia and hope even for baseball,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton 9/3/2020 Allen #15 Retirement Ceremony

Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton September 3, 2020 Allen #15 Retirement Ceremony

Middleton recalled how a bunch of white suburban Philadelphia kids would choose up sides to play Wiffleball and imitate Allen’s iconic batting stance.

“For us, it had nothing to with race,” he said, choking back tears. “It was all about talent—extraordinary talent — and we all wanted to be just like Dick Allen. Everyone wanted to be Dick Allen. So, there would be one Dick Allen on each team.”

Middleton rattled off Dick’s career statistics that elevated him to an elite status: “OPS+ 156 tied with Frank Thomas and Willie Mays 19th all-time in baseball…

“Dick’s numbers would have been even more extraordinary had he played in a better environment. Some of the conditions he played in and lived with off the field were truly horrific.”

Before the ceremony where a small crowd of family and close friends wore specially made Allen No. 15 masks, Middleton shared why he picked the ceremony on Sept. 3 to honor Allen’s “Juneteenth” day. “It was the day in 1963 when Dick was promoted from Little Rock to the Phillies,” he said. Like Lincoln did during the depths of the Civil War, Middleton stressed that even during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic the time was now to honor Dick, who he considered a civil rights pioneer. During the ensuing ceremony Middleton reflected on the loss of civil-rights leader John Lewis as his inspiration to have this ceremony. Middleton even quoted Lewis, who had died weeks before, as to why he felt it was necessary now to honor Allen:

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”

Middleton added:

“You still evoke in me the awe and wonderment of that nine-year old boy in the Jersey Shore. The Phillies organization is doing and saying something to correct what is historically not right and not fair and not just. Should this moment have occurred years ago? Unquestionably, yes…”

Dick Allen and his son Richard Allen, Jr. the morning of Dick’s #15 Retirement Ceremony.

Dick Allen and his son Richard Allen, Jr. the morning of Dick’s #15 Retirement Ceremony.

One to avoid self-aggrandizement in his life, Allen spoke for just a few minutes during the moving ceremony. He conveyed the pain and hardship he felt when the Phillies sent him in 1963 to Little Rock, then home of the Arkansas Travelers, the Phillies’ Triple A club. He was the first Black player in this community, which had become the civil-rights flashpoint in the national consciousness only six years previously. He wanted to leave and come home. But his mother, Eza Allen, convinced him to stay.

“God gave you talent and a place to show it,” recounted Allen about his mother’s encouraging words to her 22-year-old son. “Don’t let them drive you out.” His bat won over the fans by season’s end and he got promoted to the Phillies on Sept. 3, 1963.

Watch the video of the September 3, 2020 Allen Phillies #15 Retirement Ceremony…

Hall of Fame enshrinement eluded him in life

And the only aspect still unserved was Allen’s induction into the Hall of Fame. While Allen posted better numbers than many of his peers who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America, he never received more than 18.9 percent of the necessary 75 percent for election. He fell off the ballot in 1997.

Allen’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stats prove his Hall of Fame value. He had seasons at 9.3 WAR (’72), 9.1 WAR (’64) and 7.8 WAR (’66.) Every eligible player with two 9+ WAR seasons has been inducted (except for Barry Bonds, who has been suspected of numbers that have been inflated due to PEDs.)

As with other controversial players, Allen’s off-the-field baggage he accumulated as a player, much of it unwarranted, much of it untrue, kept him from gaining entrance to the Hall of Fame during his life.

Now in the era of Black Lives Matter, Allen’s career is being seen in a whole new light and measured against the society in which he played and the injustices he encountered.

He missed out by one vote in Dec. 2014, the last time he was on the Veteran’s Committee ballot. Widely expected to be voted in, finally, in Dec. 2020 by the Golden Days Veteran’s Committee that was scheduled to meet in Dallas at baseball’s winter meetings, Allen had his hopes snatched away, due to the pandemic’s cancellation of the event. The vote is postponed until Dec. 2021 with enshrinement at Cooperstown scheduled for July 2022.

Had his life turned out differently, Allen would have amassed a couple more fruitful seasons of numbers that would have cemented enshrinement much earlier.

Major League Baseball historian John Thorn had said, as early as 1984, that Allen is the most “egregious omission” from the Hall of Fame.

A stirring essay, As the Phillies retire Dick Allen’s number, he’s still waiting on the Hall of Fame, on Undefeated.com, the premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture, was published on Sept. 3, 2020.

Andrew B. Distler said repeatedly that Cooperstown has refused to admit Allen, one of baseball’s first Black superstars who was neither quiet nor grateful. Distler wrote, “While Allen’s statistics match those of many White players in the Hall, his reputation as a troublemaker — the stereotypical ‘angry Black man’ — derailed his chances. When his next chance at induction comes up, it will be an opportunity for voters to reevaluate his career in the context of his life on the field and off – a life of racial abuse, being marginalized, being taunted by teammates and fans alike, of forever being treated as a ‘boy’ rather than a man. Induction wouldn’t change the past. But it would finally recognize the accomplishments that make him more than worthy for inclusion in the Hall of Fame.”

All-time Phillie third baseman Mike Schmidt, whom Allen mentored in 1975-76, also spoke at the No. 15 retirement ceremony on September 3rd:

“Dick, then Richie, broke into the Phillies in 1964. They were the last team to integrate (in the NL.) He became the star of the team, and he was a sensitive Black man who refused to be treated as a second-class citizen. He played in front of home fans who were products of that racist era.

“He had racist teammates, and there were different rules for Whites and Blacks. Fans threw stuff on him. Thus, Dick donned the batting helmet throughout the ballgame. They yelled degrading racial slurs, they dumped trash in his front yard at his home. In general, he was tormented from all directions. And Dick rebelled. He became labeled as a bad teammate and a troublemaker. My friend, those labels have kept Dick Allen out of the Hall of Fame.”

Allen Career: A bunch of what-ifs…

The Allen story sounded like a bunch of “what-ifs?” True, but what did happen in Allen’s career was sensational in its own right. He truly was a superstar, but not an across-the-board five-tool player.

Fielding was not a strong point. But Allen could hit the ball out of sight as well as anyone in baseball. He was a great all-around hitter, adding tremendous instincts on the basepaths.

Making matters worse was his status as a talented athlete from an integrated, small-town environment of Wampum, Pa., less than an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh. But in the ultimate culture shock, Allen endured vile racist taunts in Little Rock. Racial tensions were inflamed throughout the South in 1963, as the advocates of Jim Crow pushed back against civil-rights demonstrators and an awakening federal government supporting them. Activist Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson, Mich., while four grade-school girls died in the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Ala. Federal hate-crime laws did not yet exist.

And if Allen thought he caught a break coming home to play at the end of ’63, north of the Mason-Dixon Line in his native Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he heard wrong. The Phillies were the last team in the National League to integrate, in 1957, and only fielded a smattering of players of color with no standouts in the intervening years until Allen’s promotion. Even in Philadelphia, with a large Black population, the majority of the fans were drawn from the city’s White ethnic groups with their built-in prejudices. Any Black player who strayed from a carefully trodden narrow path of behavior would hear from the fans.

Phil’s’ groundbreaker a tough role

Allen had good timing coming up to establish himself as an instant star. But on the coin flip, he was tied to the Phillies’ unprecedented collapse that melted away a 6½-game first-place lead in the final 12 games of the 1964 season. Whatever positive vibes the fans felt the bulk of that season were demolished, and a negative neurosis set in for 15 years to come. It was said Phillies fans would boo their grandmothers. Maybe not, but they directed the catcalls at Allen – for his ties with ’64, for getting into a fight with veteran first baseman Frank Thomas, for missing games with what were perceived as questionable injuries. By his final season at Connie Mack Stadium in 1969, Allen wore a batting helmet to play first base while drawing the word “Boo,” among other one-word messages, with his feet on the infield dirt near the bag.

“It is hard to imagine a more polarizing figure in Philadelphia sports history than Dick Allen,” wrote Mitchell Nathanson in a 2013 article in the Society for American Baseball Research’s (SABR) newsletter.

His bad Philadelphia experiences would follow him the rest of his career, and well beyond. So that’s why the honors of 2012 and 2020, along with the campaign by backers for the Hall of Fame, were a more well-deserved sense of redemption than for those players tied to performance-enhancing drugs who desired a return to the game.

The Allen story began when he was born March 8, 1942 in Wampum, in the western Pennsylvania small-city mill environment in which athletics was a main ticket out of the blue-collar existence. The likes of Mike Ditka and Joe Namath came from the same roots. Allen was one of nine children raised by the industrious Eza Allen. She called him “Dickie.” Older brothers Ron and Hank joined the multi-sport young Allen on a strong Wampum High basketball team. Dick Allen led Wampum to a state title in 1960. But baseball was the only assured money-maker for a talented athlete at the time, so he signed with the Phillies.

Allen was productive throughout his first three-minor league seasons. But in 1963, the Phillies re-located their Triple-A club to Little Rock, site of a massive 1957 confrontation to integrate Central High School. President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched the U.S. Army’s famed 101st Airborne division to protect nine incoming Black students, then went on national TV to explain his actions. Gov. Orval Faubus, the heavy in the ’57 incident, attended the ’63 Arkansas Travelers opener, expressing an unfavorable opinion of the new integrated team in town.

Assigned to the Travelers, Allen experienced a Jim Crow radical change compared to his Wampum roots. At least he had an affable roommate – future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins. The taunts and threats prompted the sensitive Allen to consider quitting in the manner that Billy Williams walked off the Double-A San Antonio team in response to virulent racism back in 1959. But in a pattern that would mark his career, the negatives were partially bashed by Allen’s bat. Allen led the International League with 33 homers and 97 RBIs, earning the team’s MVP from the same fans who had made his life miserable.

Promoted to the Phillies near season’s end, Allen became centerpiece of a budding National League contender for fourth-year manager Gene Mauch – then seen as one of the bright young minds in the game. Mauch placed Allen at third base, a position he had never played, for the 1964 season. He’d go on to make 41 errors, drawing the ire of the Philly boobirds. But the fielding miscues did not affect his hitting. Allen went on to a 29-homer, 91-RBI, .318 season that earned him NL Rookie of the Year honors.

’64 Phils folded, Allen finished strong

Other teammates cracked under the pressure and Mauch over-managed in panic as the Phillies coughed up their 6½ game lead as Oct. 1964 began. In contrast, Allen finished an 11-game hitting streak with two homers in the season finale at Cincinnati. However, the onrushing Cardinals also won their last game, nudging out the folding Phillies by one game for the pennant.

Despite the legendary collapse to which all other subsequent late-season nosedives were measured, Allen was now entrenched as the Phillies’ main man. He likely would have fully enjoyed its advantages if not for a batting-cage confrontation with Thomas on July 3, 1965 at Connie Mack Stadium. Thomas made a racist remark to Allen, who punched Thomas in the face. Thomas in turn hit Allen on the right shoulder with a bat. Management immediately released Thomas, but Phillies fans somehow held Allen responsible for the brawl. He would never again be viewed in full favor by the fans or some media despite a 40-homer season in 1966.

A series of injuries included a devastating laceration in Aug. 1967 that severed nerves and tendons to his right wrist and left him with a permanently crippled right hand. They dovetailed with abrupt, unexcused absences from the team to mark Allen’s final years in Philly.

He wore his batting helmet at all times as protection from any thrown objects. Handling Allen was blamed for Bob Skinner’s resignation as manager in mid-1969. He demanded to be traded. By this time, Allen began drawing his feelings toward the fans in the dirt by first base. In addition to “Boo,” he scratched out “Coke” and “Pete.” “Oct 2” was drawn to remind the boobirds of the season’s final game. In response to management orders to stop the impromptu groundskeeping, Allen responded with “No” and Why.”

Phillies owner Bob Carpenter and GM John Quinn fulfilled Allen’s trade wish just five days after the ’69 finale. He was central to a trade that changed baseball history. Allen was the main personality swapped to the Cardinals in a multi-player deal that netted center field Curt Flood. But happy and well-established in a surprisingly tolerant St. Louis, Flood refused to go to Philly with Siberia-of-the-NL status and sketchy attitude toward Black players that was enhanced by Allen’s troubles. Flood would sue Major League Baseball, a move ultimately unsuccessful for him, yet one that laid the groundwork for free agency in 1976.

Like other African-American players traded to St. Louis, Allen professed a liking for the franchise and city. He was given a standing ovation by a packed Busch Stadium II for the team’s home opener. Allen produced even better than the Cardinals expected – 34 homers in five months, the most in franchise annals between 35-homer outputs by Stan Musial in 1954 and Jack Clark in 1987. In the first post-1957 fan voting for the All-Star team, Allen was selected the NL’s starting first baseman. But he missed all but five remaining games after tearing a hamstring on Aug. 14, 1970.

Reports circulated the Cardinals were unhappy over the games missed. Again, Allen was on the move, this time to the Dodgers, as soon as the season ended. Cardinals GM Bing Devine – same man who heisted Lou Brock from the Cubs in 1964 – claimed Allen was on good paper with the organization. He publicly reasoned the Cardinals needed more speed in second baseman Ted Sizemore in the new era of Astroturf in their big ballpark.

In Dodger Stadium, also spacious and not home-run friendly except for day games, Allen also produced with 23 homers, 90 RBIs and a .295 average. But the Walter O’Malley-owned team always preferred pitching over run-production up to this point in their history. So as the winter meetings drew to a close in 1971, White Sox personnel director Roland Hemond got a brainstorm as he tried to further build back his franchise into contention. He offered long-established lefty Tommy John to Dodgers GM Al Campanis for Allen.

‘A daring move’ to White Sox

“Acquiring Dick was a daring move,” Hemond told Sox historian Mark Liptak. “I felt though that Chuck Tanner would be the right manager for him. Chuck is from New Castle, Pa. and Allen was from (nearby) Wampum. Chuck had known Dick and Dick’s mom for years. Allen was one of the most talented players to have ever played the game. We felt he could help us.”

Teaming with defending 1971 American League home-run champ Bill Melton, who had slugged a Sox record 33 HRs in 1970. Allen’s arrival was saluted by Chicago media proclaiming a new Murderer’s Row at old Comiskey Park. The beefed-up lineup promised to further boost the team revival under Hemond and Tanner, who were hired together near the end of the ’70 season.

The Sox had one foot out the door from Chicago as the Sixties drew to a close. The franchise, built on great pitching but a pitch-and-putt lineup, radically declined to AL doormat status after a near-miss 1967 season.

The franchise’s visibility in the Chicago market also dipped dramatically. Owner Arthur Allyn concocted a penny-wise, pound-foolish shift of telecasts, agreed to in 1966, from superpower WGN -Channel 9 – whom they shared with the crosstown Cubs — to WFLD-Channel 32. But less than half the market’s TV sets could as yet receive the UHF channels, made mandatory on all new TV sets by a 1964 federal law. With the Sox gone from WGN starting in 1968, Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley gave his longtime broadcast partner free rein to televise as many games as they wished. The addition of more than 60 Cubs road games in 1968 as the team morphed into an exciting contender buried the drooping Sox profile in Chicago.

Milwaukee auto executive Bud Selig, heading a group to bring baseball back to the city after the Braves’ 1965 departure for Atlanta, lured the Sox to play a series of home games, in front of good crowds, in both the 1968 and 1969 seasons. Rumors of a Sox move to Milwaukee abounded. Actual Comiskey Park attendance dipped below 500,000 in 1969 (subtracting Milwaukee games from home attendance) and 1970, when the franchise lost a record 106 games.

John Allyn largely squelched the move rumors by assuming ownership from brother Arthur Allyn. Hemond made a series of trades to rejuvenate the Sox for 1971. Fans sensed a turnaround, with more than 43,000 packing the ballpark for the home opener.

Dick Allen slugged a three-run homer for the sweep with a 4-2 deficit, two on and one out in the ninth on June 4, 1972. Not expecting to be used, Allen was in the clubhouse and hurriedly dressed, apparently getting wiener condiments on his jersey.

Dick Allen slugged a three-run homer for the sweep with a 4-2 deficit, two on and one out in the ninth on June 4, 1972. Not expecting to be used, Allen was in the clubhouse and hurriedly dressed, apparently getting wiener condiments on his jersey.

The Sox played well in the second half, finishing in third place in the AL West with a 79-83 mark. Attendance jumped to 833,000. The initial pied piper was broadcaster Caray, whose bombastic style came through loud and clear on a network of smaller suburban and FM radio stations the Sox were forced to assemble after 50,000-watt WMAQ-Radio dropped the rights. Caray proved such an audience and gate allure that he overwhelmingly earned his $30,000 attendance bonus.

But the Sox still needed more, and Allen provided it. He matched his peak production from his Phillies days as the team got off to a 20-10 start and stayed in contention just behind the powerful Oakland Athletics.

The real coming-out party took place on June 4 with an overflow 51,904 in the old yard to watch a Sunday doubleheader against the Yankees. The Sox romped 6-1 in the opener. Tanner rested Allen in the nightcap but called on him from the clubhouse to pinch-hit against closer Sparky Lyle with a 4-2 deficit, two on and one out in the ninth. Not expecting to be used, Allen was allegedly chomping on a chili dog in the clubhouse when Tanner’s call came. Hurriedly dressing, he apparently got wiener condiments on his jersey. With the old flourish, the sated Allen slugged a three-run homer for the sweep to send the mob and Caray into total delirium.

Watch a video of the 1972 White Sox – A 2012 Chicago Baseball Museum Tribute to Dick Allen…

One-man gang after Melton hurt

Soon Allen would have to carry the Sox on his back. Melton was sidelined in June 1972 due to back surgery. Allen was the only true power threat in the lineup. But the Sox kept keeping on. Allen added his two inside-the-park homers against Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven in a July 31 game. He tormented the Yankees again, on Aug. 23, with a nearly-500-foot line-drive homer to the faraway, vacant Comiskey Park center-field bleachers off former Cub Lindy McDaniel as Caray, broadcasting from the cheap seats, futilely waved his fishnet at the blast.

By this juncture, the Sox gave the A’s a real run, even taking a 1½-game lead on Aug. 26. They had finally yanked back the town’s attention from the aging Cubs, whose only 1972 distinction was the end of Leo Durocher’s 6½-year managerial tenure at the All-Star break. The plucky Sox stayed within hailing distance through much of September before finishing 87-67, 5½ back. Their 1.1 million attendance finally put a few bucks in Allyn’s pocket.

Allen finished with an AL-pacing 37 homers, 113 RBIs, a .420 on-base percentage and .602 slugging percentage, along and a .308 average, earning MVP honors. Eight miles north, the Cubs’ Williams outperformed him with .333, good for the NL batting title to go along with 37 homers and 122 RBIs. But Allen still garnered the lion’s share of the spotlight. Allyn rewarded him with a $700,000 three-year contract, the highest in the game with free agency still four years away.

The Sox could not recapture 1972’s magic in the next two seasons despite Melton’s return and Hemond adding center fielder Ken Henderson from the Giants and third baseman Ron Santo from the Cubs in successive off-seasons.

Hemond had to sacrifice pitching in starter Tom Bradley in exchange for Henderson, and there was little rotation depth behind ace knuckleballer Wilbur Wood in 1973. Allen missed all but one game in the second half of the ’73 season due to a hairline fracture in his right leg suffered in a collision with the A’s Mike Epstein. In ’74, despite the arrival of lefty Jim Kaat to bolster the rotation, the Sox never got untracked. Clubhouse dissension bubbled up. Santo, as miscast as any Sox in modern times as a former “big cheese” Cub, was never happy on the South Side and feuded with Allen.

Between the backbiting and several nagging injuries, Allen felt he had enough. Calling a team meeting before the Sept. 14 game at Comiskey Park, he told his teammates he was retiring. He was ailing with pain in his back, right foot, and a right shoulder and wanted to go back to Wampum. Allen left a lot on the table – he led the AL with 32 homers at this point, and still won the AL home-run crown.

The Sox traded Allen’s rights to the Braves after the ’74 season. He said firmly he would not play in the South. Back in Philadelphia, a lobbying effort got underway to reacquire Allen. Early in the 1975 season, the rebuilding Phillies traded for his rights.

But despite some initial positives, a good fan reaction and mentorship of young slugger Mike Schmidt, Allen proved he could not truly go home again, not just yet. His two seasons in 1975-76 were marred by injuries, more missed games and more questions about his motivation. He slugged just 27 homers in 204 games over the two seasons. When the Phillies clinched the NL East in Montreal late in 1976, Allen, Schmidt and two other African-American players went off to celebrate by themselves in a Jarry Park broom closet.

At 35, Allen finished out his career in 1977 with a five-homer output over 50 games with the A’s. His final career stat line ended at 351 homers, 1,119 RBIs, a .292 average and .378 on-base percentage.

Other highlights of Allen’s career:

  • Twice he led the league in OBP (On Base Percentage), including .420 OBP in his historic 1972 season
  • He made seven All-Star Game appearances, two more appearances than fellow White Sox MVP and Hall of Fame inductee Frank Thomas.
  • Allen hit more than .300 during six seasons.
  • Seven times, he finished in the top three in the league in slugging.
  • Allen finished in the top five in triples five times with 79 career three-baggers.
  • He was league home-run leader twice (’72, ’74) and second in home runs twice (’66, ’68.)

In aggregate, Allen left too much on the table. Critics cite that his statistics are a bit thin because he had less than 2,000 hits (1,848) in a career that was cut short for injuries, illness and other factors beyond his control. His defense was also not stellar. One or two more seasons, and fewer missed games in his prime due to multiple injuries, might have netted him 400 or more homers and would have provided more numerical justification for a relatively early Hall of Fame induction.

Allen never returned to a role in baseball other than brief stints as spring-training coaches with the Phillies, White Sox, and Rangers. He authored Crash with Tim Whitaker, an interesting 1989 autobiography. But his low post-career profile and continued status as an enigma no doubt hurt his Cooperstown chances during his lifetime. If anything, Dick Allen was an anti-politician in a very political game.

Being regarded as a troublemaker was an unfair label for Dick Allen as his teammate Mike Schmidt has pointed out. A Black player could not get involved in controversy in the 1960s without the finger of blame being pointed at him. Plus Philadelphia was the Siberia of the NL in the 1960s, so Dick’s standing as a superstar was greatly diminished because of race. And controversy still dogged him even in 1972 when he came to Chicago with not taking batting practice, arriving near game time and his abrupt departure in Sept. 1974 due to injuries. This took away from his accomplishments on the South Side. And then there were problems in his second Phillies stint in 1975-76 and even in his final stop in Oakland.

Personal stances or not, his status as one of the great all-around players of his era remains unquestioned, and is finally recognized. A supremely talented player was honored better late than never as the mindset of the times finally caught up with the magnitude of Allen’s feats in the 1960s and 1970s.

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