Richard Anthony Allen (born March 8, 1942) is a former American Major League Baseball (MLB) player and Rhythm and Blues (R&B) singer. He played 15 seasons in the major leagues as a first baseman, third baseman, and outfielder most notably for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox, and is ranked among his sport's top offensive producers of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Allen was an All-Star for seven seasons. He won the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 1972 American League Most Valuable Player Award. He also led the American League (AL) in home runs for two seasons, led the NL in slugging percentage one season and the AL two seasons, and led both leagues in on-base percentage each for one season. His .534 career slugging percentage ranks among the highest in an era marked by low offensive production.
Allen's 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.
In 2014, Allen appeared for the first time as a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Golden Era Committee election ballot for possible Hall of Fame consideration in 2015. He and the other candidates all missed getting elected by the committee. The Committee meets and votes on 10 selected candidates from the 1947 to 1972 era every three years. Allen was one vote short of the required 12 votes needed for election.
Dick Allen hit a baseball with an authority Philadelphia fans had not seen since Chuck Klein and Jimmie Foxx. Phillies scout John Ogden convinced the Phillies to sign Allen in 1960 for a $70,000 bonus. John Ogden played for the International League Baltimore Orioles from 1919 to 1925 under Jack Dunn, the discoverer of Babe Ruth, and later pitched against Ruth in the American League. Ogden stated in a Philadelphia Bulletin story printed on July 1, 1969, that Dick Allen was the only player he ever saw who hit a ball as hard as Babe Ruth.
Allen's playing 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 12 games to play in an exceptionally strong National League. The 1964 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 Allen's autobiography (written with Tim Whitaker), Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen, Allen stated that the play "broke our humps". Despite the Phillies' collapse, Allen hit .438 with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs and 11 RBI in those last 12 games.
Allen hit a home run off the Cardinals' Ray Washburn in 1965 which 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."
While playing for Philadelphia, Allen appeared on several All-Star teams including the 1965–67 teams (in the latter of these three games, he hit a home run off Dean Chance). He led the league in slugging (.632), OPS (1.027) and extra base hits (75) in 1966.
Non-baseball incidents soon marred Allen's Philadelphia career. In July 1965, he got into a 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 not only made the fans and local sports writers see Allen as costing a white player his job, but freed Thomas to give his version of the fight. 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.
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.
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. (He was reinstated, but wanted to be traded. Due to problems in having a trade made right then, he agreed to finish the 1969 season with the Phillies.)
St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers
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.
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."
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 1969 NL Rookie of the Year Ted Sizemore and catcher Bob Stinson, the LA Dodgers 1966 first round draft pick. Allen had a relatively quiet season in 1971 although he hit .295 for the Dodgers.
Chicago White Sox
The Dodgers traded Allen to the White Sox for pitcher 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 1⁄2 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, Allen became the first player in baseball's "modern era" to hit two inside-the-park home runs in one game. Both homers were hit off Bert Blyleven in the White Sox' 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins at 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.
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.) In 1974, despite his making the AL All-Star team in each of the three years with the Sox, Allen's stay in Chicago ended in controversy when he left the team on September 14 with two weeks left in the season. In his autobiography, 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.
With Allen's intention to continue playing baseball uncertain, the White 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.
Return to the Phillies
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, as he hit 15 home runs and batted .268 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.
Allen played in 54 games and hit 5 HR's with 31 RBI's during his final season for the Oakland Athletics in 1977 before leaving the team abruptly in June of that season.
Dick Allen sang professionally in a high, delicate tenor. The tone and texture of his voice has drawn comparisons to 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 as substantial or long-lasting as that of Milwaukee Braves outfielder Arthur Lee Maye, Allen gained lasting praise for a recording on the Groovy Grooves label titled, "Echoes of November." The song 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 sold briskly in Brazil. (The CD's jacket contains a dedication to Dick Allen and his Hall of Fame candidacy.)
Hall of Fame candidacy
Nearly forty years after retiring, Allen remains a much discussed and still controversial ballplayer. An increasing number of Baseball historians regard him as the best player not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Allen appeared on the Hall of Fame's 2014 Golden Era Committee ballot (the committee votes every three years since 2011 when Ron Santo was elected by the committee) of 10 selected candidates (selected by a committee of the Baseball Writers' Association of America) from the 1947 to 1972 era for consideration of Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2015. Allen and Tony Oliva were both one vote short of the required 12 votes by the committee which elected none of the candidates.
Sabermetrician Bill James rated Dick Allen as the second-most controversial player in baseball history, behind Rogers Hornsby. James called Allen's autobiography, Crash, "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.
Allen Barra wrote in his Wall Street Journal sports column that "A growing body of baseball historians think that Dick Allen is the best player eligible for the Hall of Fame." 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" Of the Major League batters with 500 or more career home runs whose play intersected Dick Allen's career at the beginning or end, only Mickey Mantle's lifetime OPS+ of 172 topped Dick Allen's lifetime 156 OPS+ His career OPS+ is the second highest of any retired player not in the Hall of Fame (only topped by Mark Mcgwire). Allen also played some of his career in pitcher-friendly parks such as Busch Memorial Stadium, Dodger Stadium, and Comiskey Park.
In addition to hitting for high offensive percentages, Allen displayed prodigious power. 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. A segment of MLB Network's Prime 9 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. Allen combined massive strength and body torque to produce bat speed and drive the ball. Two of his drives cleared Connie Mack Stadium's 65-foot-high left field grandstand. Twice Allen cleared that park's 65-foot-high right center field scoreboard: a feat considered virtually impossible for a right-handed hitter.
Detractors of Allen's 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 further argue that the controversies surrounding him negatively impacted his teams. Hall of Fame player Willie Stargell countered with a historical perspective of Dick Allen's time: "Dick Allen played the game in the most conservative era in baseball history. It was a time of change and protest in the country, and baseball reacted against all that. They saw it as a threat to the game. The sportswriters were reactionary too. They didn't like seeing a man of such extraordinary skills doing it his way. It made them nervous. Dick Allen was ahead of his time. His views and way of doing things would go unnoticed today. If I had been manager of the Phillies back when he was playing, I would have found a way to make Dick Allen comfortable. I would have told him to blow off the writers. It was my observation that when Dick Allen was comfortable, balls left the park." The two managers for whom Allen played the longest—Gene Mauch of the Phillies and Chuck Tanner of the White Sox—agreed with Willie Stargell that Allen 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. Dick's teammates always liked him. I'd take him in a minute." 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." Hall of Fame player Orlando Cepeda agreed, saying to author Tim Whitaker, "Dick Allen played with fire in his eyes." Hall of Fame teammate Rich Gossage also confirmed Tanner's view. In an interview with USA TODAY Sports, Gossage said: "I've been around the game a long time, and he's the greatest player I've ever seen play in my life. He had the most amazing season (1972) I've ever seen. He's the smartest baseball man I've ever been around in my life. He taught me how to pitch from a hitter's prospective, and taught me how to play the game right. There's no telling the numbers this guy could have put up if all he worried about was stats. The guy belongs in the Hall of Fame." 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." Another Hall of Fame teammate, Mike Schmidt, credited Dick Allen in his book, Clearing the Bases, as his mentor. In Schmidt's biography, written by historian William C. Kashatus, Schmidt fondly recalls 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." 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."