With the baseball world still reeling from the losses of legends in Joe Morgan, Al Kaline, Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver, 2020 has claimed yet another giant of the game in Phillies legend Dick Allen. A brash and outspoken corner infielder and outfielder, Allen was one of baseball’s biggest superstars in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Dick Allen was a trailblazer for both the Phllies and the game of baseball as a whole, yet he was still never given the respect he deserved.
In 1963, Dick Allen made headlines as the first black player in the history of the Arkansas Travelers, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate at the time. While this generated quite a bit of heat, including local residents staging protests of Allen’s inclusion, he made it impossible for anyone to disrespect his talent, slashing .289/.341/.550 at the level and earned a promotion to the big leagues. Upon arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, Allen ran away with the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1964, his first full season, slashing .318/.382/.557 with 29 home runs and 91 RBI, good for seventh place in MVP voting.
1964 proved to be only the beginning for Dick Allen, as he would go on to pile up 7,315 career plate appearances of .292/.378/.534 hitting, with 320 doubles, 351 long balls, 1,119 RBI and an otherworldly 156 OPS+. Allen stuffed his trophy case along the way, earning seven All-Star berths and an MVP Award in addition to the aforementioned Rookie of the Year honors.
Despite elite production over 15 big league seasons, it wasn’t all roses, as Allen faced a great deal of off the field trials and tribulations. In 1965, Allen got into a well-publicized clubhouse fight with Phillies teammate Frank Thomas due to Thomas’ frequent bullying and use of racial epithets towards the youngster. The skirmish ended in Thomas being released by the ball club for hitting Allen with a bat. However, in spite of Thomas’ abominable behavior, this incident still led to quite a few of Allen’s detractors fanning the flames of public scrutiny. On other occasions, Allen was abused by the Phillies’ mercurial fan base with not only verbal barbs, but also trash, food and even batteries being hurled his way.
Never treated with the respect he earned and deserved, Dick Allen persevered through a trying playing career and built himself a well-respected Hall of Fame candidacy. Many proponents of his inclusion in the hallowed halls point to his accolades and sheer dominance of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as well as his very respectable 58.8 Wins Above Replacement. Devastatingly, Allen fell just one vote shy of enshrinement in 2014 at the hands of the Golden Era Committee. However, not all hope is lost, as his name will appear on the Golden Days Committee ballot next year, and given the massive amount of recent support shown for him, there looks to be a very good chance of his posthumous induction in 2022.
Dick Allen was without a doubt one of the preeminent stars of his era. A lightning rod both on and off the field, Allen’s impact on the game will continue to reverberate for generations to come. While the baseball world feels tremendous sadness in the wake of his passing, we as fans can take solace in the fact that his legacy will not be forgotten, and the greatest sport in the world is all the better due to his inclusion.