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Monday, November 21, 2016

The Controversial Dick Allen

Dick Allen's rookie season gave Philadelphia fans their first glimpse of power that they hadn't seen since Jimmy Foxx or Chuck Klein. Phillies scout John Ogden stated in an article in the Philadelphia Bulletin on June 1, 1969, that Dick Allen was the only player saw hit the ball as hard as Babe Ruth. Allen would be the National League Rookie of the Year in 1964. He hit 29 home runs with 91 RBI with a slash line of .318/.382/.557. He led the league in with 13 triples, and striking out 138 times. It would be the first of the 9 straight seasons with 20 plus home runs.
In the racially charged 1960's Allen became a source of controversy. He was known as Dick most of his life, but the local media referred to him as Richie, a name Allen felt belonged to a boy, and not a man. He was involved in an incident with teammate Frank Thomas when Thomas hit Allen with a bat. The incident was covered up by the team with threats of fines iif the players spoke of the incident. Thomas was released the next day. He started wearing a battling helmet in field field as he was often showered with thrown objects and racial slurs in his home park in Philadelphia. Allen missed a double header in 1969 when he couldn't get to the ballpark being stuck in traffic. He had spent the day at a race track causing him to be suspended. 
Controversy seemed to follow Allen. Before the 1970 season, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Curt Flood. Flood refused to report, and sued baseball attempting to overthrow the reserve clause. The Cardinals would send first baseman Willie Montanez to the Phillies as compensation. Montanez would end up breaking Allen's rookie record for home runs by hitting 30 in 1971.  In St. Louis, he would hit 34 home runs with 101 RBI and slash .279/.377/. 560 Allen spent only one season in St. Louis before being traded to the Los Angeles. His numbers dropped for the Dodgers, by Allen's standards anyway. He hit 23 home runs with 90 RBI with a line of 295/.395/.468. He was traded after the 1971 season to the Chicago White Sox.
Chuck Tanner was the manager of the White Sox at the time, and decided to not move Allen around. Various teams had played him at third base, first base, and outfield. Some feel this contributed to his perceived poor defense, and rash of injuries he had suffered over the years. He rewarded Tanner by leading the American League in home runs (37), RBI (113), on base percentage (.420), slugging percentage (.603) and an outstanding 1.023 OPS.  He was named American League Most Valuable Player.  A fractured fibula cut short his 1973 season, where he had only 288 plate appearances.  1974 would be the last of the great seasons for Allen. He hit 32 home runs with 88 RBI, his slash line of .301/.375/.563, he slugging percentage led the American League. He feuded with Ron Santo (in his only season with the White Sox) and left the team two weeks before the end of the season.
Allen's contract was sold to the Atlanta Braves for $5,000, he refused to report and retired from the game. The Phillies talked him out of retirement, and we spend two seasons a shadow of his former self, and close out his career with the Oakland A's in 1977. 
Allen's career numbers of .292 batting average 351 home runs, and 1,119 RBI make him one of the most prolific hitters in the game that isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He missed (along with Tony Olivia of the Minnesota Twins) being selected for the Hall of Fame by one vote in 2014  by the Golden Era Committee,  which votes every three years.

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