Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Dick Allen. Allen was signed out of Wampum High School (western Pennsylvania) by the Philadelphia Phillies when he was 18 years old in 1960. In 1963 he was a September call up and in 1964 was the Phillies fulltime third baseman, winning the Rookie of the Year Award almost unanimously (took 18 of the 20 first place votes) and finished seventh in the MVP voting. That season he hit .318/.382/.557, leading the NL in runs, triples, total bases, and strikeouts (138; a mediocre total now but crazy high in 1964) as the Phillies improbably stayed in first place until their famous collapse down the stretch*.
*-Gene Mauch was known as a manager who small-balled his way through his entire career. If you want evidence of this here you go: In 1964 he had Dick Allen attempt to sacrifice bunt 15 times. Eight of those attempts came in the first inning. The overall Sidorski Score for these 15 attempts was 33.27. The bigger question of Gene Mauch is this: Why in the name of science would you have a guy with his numbers bunting? Was the .306/.384/.531 line in 2,086 minor league plate appearances not a clear enough indicator of his ability to hit without giving away outs? Again, Gene Mauch would’ve driven me crazy if he managed the Indians.
The next season Allen hit .302/.375/.494 and made his first All-Star team. He made the All-Star team in 1966 and 1967 as well, leading the league in OPS and OPS+ both years.
But things weren’t always easy with Allen. In July of 1965 he got into a fight with teammate Frank Thomas (no, not the Hall of Famer). Thomas had swung a bat at Allen, which most likely led to Thomas’ release the following day. In the meantime the players were not permitted by the team to give the press their side of the story. With Thomas able to give his side since he was no longer with the team, Philly fans and local media were given the impression that Allen had cost a white guy his job*. Back in the 60’s, this was big. And since Philly was the perfect city for such incidents to happen, Allen’s life became a nightmare. From verbal obscenities to a wide variety of objects thrown in his direction, his time in Philadelphia was anything but enjoyable.
*-It should be noted that in a 2009 interview with Bob Costas on the MLB Network Allen stated that he and Thomas are good friends.
Then in 1967 he mangled his throwing hand when a headlight got in its way. In 1969 he was fined and suspended indefinitely for missing a double header in New York. Apparently he went to see a horse race in the morning and got stuck in traffic on his way to the game.
By the end of 1969 he had had enough. He demanded a trade and was sent to St. Louis in a seven play swap. Naturally this was not without controversy. One of the players traded was Curt Flood, and we all know his side of this story. The Cardinals completed the deal by sending two other players to Philly. In his one year as a Cardinal he hit 34 homers and made the All-Star team. After that he was traded to the Dodgers for former Rookie of the Year Ted Sizemore and Bob Stinson. His lone year in LA he hit 23 homers (a good total considering Dodger Stadium) but after the season was sent to the White Sox for a weak hitting middle infielder and a surgeon.
In his first year in the American League he was an instant success. Allen hit .308/.420/.603 while leading the league in homeruns, RBI, walks, OBP, slugging, OPS, and OPS+, making the All-Star team and winning the AL MVP Award (receiving 21 of the 24 first place votes). On July 31 of that year the White Sox played the Minnesota Twins. After Pat Kelly walked and Luis Alvarado singled, Dick Allen stepped in against Bert Blyleven. Allen drove a ball to center field. Twins center fielder Bobby Darwin slipped and the ball bounced over him and rolled to the wall. By the time they got it in Allen had touched all the bases for an inside the park homerun. He came up again in the fifth with the Sox now leading 4-0 after a double and single preceded him. He hit the ball this time to left center. Bobby Darwin ran to cut it off . . . and failed. Thanks to Darwin’s momentum the left fielder had to go after the ball. Allen slid into home well ahead of the throw and he had his second inside the park homerun. It was the first time in 40 years that anyone had accomplished the feat.
Overall Allen hit .292/.378/.534 with a 156 OPS+ in 15 seasons. My Hall of Fame Rating system has him at 65.04, above the average first baseman score of 63.82. In my opinion he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but in all of his years on the ballot he never received more than 18.9% of the vote. Maybe he will be enshrined by the Veterans Committee or one of the other committees they have created. I don’t know. But I would like to see him in. Yes, he ranks 17th on my current list of Hall-eligible players, but all 17 are worthy candidates as well.