Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Glory of Their Time, Chapter 8: Dick Allen

2004 Bazooka "One-Liners" #BOL-DA Dick Allen BAT

This card was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.

The quote on the front of this card personifies Dick Allen so well. Allen uttered this gem when he was asked his opinion on the brand new phenomenon known as Astroturf.

Astroturf was quite the rage upon its debut in the Houston Astrodome. Dick Allen wasn't buying it.

If I had one word to describe Dick Allen (besides "great"), it would be "iconoclastic". Not in a bad way, because the "traditional" values baseball had at the time were something that was in dire need of opposition.

Dick Allen was the opposition.

2001 Topps Archives #44 Dick Allen

Dick Allen made his major league debut with the Phillies in 1963, appearing in ten games that year.

The controversy that seemed to surround Allen during his entire career began even before his major league debut in '63. 

After being signed by the Phils in 1960, Allen worked his way up the system and eventually made it to their Triple-A minor league affiliate in Little Rock in '63. He was Little Rock's first black player, and as a result, faced an incredible amount of racial oppression. The town even staged protest parades against him.

He showed his incredible poise as a minor leaguer, hitting 33 homers and leading the league in total bases that year, earning him a late-season call-up.

2004 Topps Fan Favorites #117 Dick Allen

I'm not sure if anyone was more deserving of a Topps Rookie Cup than Dick Allen was for his 1964 season.

All he did was lead the majors in four major categories (runs, triples, total bases, and extra base hits), hit 29 homers, post a .318 average, and run away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. He also finished seventh in the NL MVP voting.

Not bad for a rookie season.

He "fell off" in 1965, hitting "just" .302 and hitting 20 homers. He also hit 14 triples in '65, bettering his '64 total. (I never knew how much speed Allen had early in his career before I researched for this post.) He was also elected to his first of seven career All-Star games in '65.

Allen was also involved in his first major off-field incident in 1965, getting into a fight with teammate Frank Thomas after Thomas swung a bat at Allen, hitting him on the shoulder. Thomas was released the next day. It certainly didn't help that the local media portrayed Allen as the bad guy in the situation, "costing" Thomas his job.

1966 Topps #80 Dick Allen

This is the oldest real card of Allen that I own. Can't you tell?

Allen would post his best season yet in '66, walloping 40 homers and collecting 110 RBIs, as well as scoring 112 runs. He'd also post a .317 batting average and would lead the league in slugging percentage with a .632 mark.

 1967 Topps #450 Dick Allen

I'm not sure where I got this one or why it's in so good of shape. Most of my vintage are at least a little beat-up. I guess it's a wash paired with the condition of my '66 Topps Dick Allen.

Dick Allen always said that he disliked the name "Richie" or "Rich", as he believed it sounded too childish. He insisted people call him "Dick", which is why I'm using that name for this post. Apparently no one at Topps got the memo.

Allen wouldn't play a full season in 1967, appearing in just 122 games. However, he would lead the league in on-base percentage with a .404 mark and be elected to his third consecutive All-Star game. He'd also hit 23 homers, his fourth consecutive 20+ home run season.

1968 Topps Game #23 Dick Allen

I've got Allen's regular '68 Topps issue, but there's just something about these game cards I like. I'm not sure what it is, though.

Although he'd hit just .263, Allen would post a solid .352 OBP and park 33 homers in 1968.

1969 Topps #350 Dick Allen

Allen looks annoyed in his 1969 Topps photo. That's because he was annoyed. 1969 would be the final year of his first stint in Philadelphia.

He'd have a fine year in '69, hitting 32 homers and posting a great .375 OBP. However, his 1969 season was marred with controversy.

It became apparent that Allen wouldn't be a Phillie for much longer once he was suspended indefinitely during the 1969 season for missing the second game of a doubleheader. (He got caught in traffic coming back from the race track.)

Allen demanded the Phillies trade him after the '69 season.

1970 Topps #40 Dick Allen

He got his wish, being shipped to the Cardinals in October of 1969.

The trade that sent him to St. Louis just goes to show that controversy simply just followed Allen, even if he had no control over it. One of the players involved in the Philly/St. Louis trade was none other than Curt Flood. Flood would famously refuse to report to Philadelphia and would take major league baseball to court over the reserve clause. Although he lost his case, it paved the way for the beginnings of free agency in the 1970's.

Allen would last just one season in St. Louis, but it was a fine one. Allen would hit 34 homers and reach the 100-RBI plateau for the second time of his career with 101. He'd also be elected to his fourth All-Star team.

1971 Topps #650 Dick Allen

I don't currently own this card. But I desperately want it. It's a high number, so they don't come cheap. It's Dick Allen, it's a "short-term stops" card, and it's from the fantastic 1971 Topps set. Oh, how I want this card!

Surprisingly, Allen was shipped to the Dodgers after the 1970 season for Ted Sizemore and Bob Stinson.

His lone season as a Dodger in '71 would be a good one. Although his home run total dropped a bit (23), he'd post a then-personal best total of 93 walks, contributing to his spectacular .395 on-base percentage.

1972 Topps #240 Dick Allen

Here's another chapter in the Topps-is-too-lazy-to-find-an-updated-picture-so-let's-just-use-an-old-one saga. It's the same exact shot that was used for his 1970 Cardinals card (and I'm pretty sure he was a Phillie when the original shot was taken).

In December of 1971, the Dodgers shipped Allen to the White Sox for Tommy John.

In 1972, Allen would go on to not only have the finest season of his career, but one of the finest offensive seasons in baseball history.

He was still flirting with a Triple Crown in August of the '72 season. Although he'd fall short, his numbers are simply staggering.

He led the American League with 37 homers and 113 RBIs. He'd also lead the league with 99 walks. He ended up finishing third in batting average with a .308 mark (behind Rod Carew and Lou Piniella), but he would lead the league in OBP (.420), slugging percentage (.603), and on-base-plus-slugging (1.023).

Not surprisingly, he took home the 1972 AL MVP award.

1973 Topps #310 Dick Allen

Is it a coincidence that Topps finally started to call him "Dick Allen" after his amazing 1972 campaign? Thankfully, Topps finally decided to reward Allen with a fantastic action shot for his '73 issue.

Allen would have the worst season of his career in '73. He'd play in a then-career low 72 games and would hit just 16 homers, the first time he failed to hit less than 20 in a full season.

1974 Topps #70 Dick Allen

This one reminds me of the black parallels that Wal-Mart puts out with today's Topps cards.

Allen would have his last hurrah in 1974, leading the league with 32 homers. He'd post a fine .301 batting average and would again lead the league in both slugging (.563) and OPS (.938).

1974 would also be his seventh and final All-Star season.

Years before John Olerud would become famous for it, Dick Allen wore a batting helmet in the field due to the vast array of items that were thrown at him from the crowd during his Philadelphia days. The helmet was described as a "crash helmet". The name would be shortened to "Crash", which became Allen's most famous nickname and would also eventually be the title of his biography.

1975 Topps #400 Dick Allen

You know you've made it once you receive a number ending in "00" in a Topps set. However, Allen would be long gone from Chicago once this card hit the stores.

Despite his spectacular 1974 season, the White Sox sold Allen to the Braves after the season ended.

He refused to report to Atlanta and announced his retirement.

The Braves, who still had Allen's contract on their hands even though he hadn't played a game for them, shipped him back to Philadephia in May of 1975.

Surprisingly, the Phillies were able to coax him out of retirement, and he wound up playing in 119 games for the Phillies that year. He'd post the lowest batting average of his career with just a .233 mark in '75, along with just 12 homers.

1976 Topps #455 Dick Allen

1976 would be Allen's final Topps issue.

He'd play in just 85 games in '76, but he managed to improve upon his 1975 numbers. He'd hit .268 and post a respectable .348 OBP. He'd also hit 15 homers.

Allen also made his first and only career playoff appearance in 1976. The Phillies were swept by the Reds in the 1976 NLCS. Allen would go 2-for-9 with three walks in his only postseason series.

Okay, this card isn't real. I would love to see any card that features Allen in his short time with the A's.

Allen's career came to a close in 1977 when he appeared in 54 games with the A's. He hit just five home runs.

If Allen's short tenure with the A's is remembered at all, it's for his uniform. Instead of his last name on the back, the word "Wampum" appeared, a nod to his hometown of Wampum, PA.

No biography of Dick Allen is complete without showing this photo. It just represents him so well. Smoking and juggling baseballs in the dugout. Does it get any better?

Dick Allen will always be one of my favorite players. He was a great player, but his personality was what I like most about him, even though he definitely had his flaws.

I just got done reading a passage in Ball Four in which Jim Bouton mentions that he's admired Allen ever since he got a large pay raise after a holdout following his tremendous rookie season. However, Allen angered a lot of people in Philadelphia after demanding a raise after just one season, saying that he didn't have to play baseball if he didn't like his salary. To quote Bouton:

"The minute somebody refuses to work for somebody else at a particular wage, the onus, in the public mind, is on the person who chooses not to do the working...[A person] probably thinks, well, Allen doesn't have to be a baseball player if he doesn't like it. Sure, he can always be vice-president of the Wyckoff, N.J., bank."

This quote comes after Bouton satirizes a conversation he had in which a lady said that the plumbers in part of a local plumber's strike don't have to be plumbers if they don't want to be. Yes, because plumbers have a number of professions they could "fall back" on should they lose their jobs. Right...

I like to think that Dick Allen played a role in changing this way of thinking.

As you probably know by reading some of my previous posts, I enjoy players that are "different". For his time, Dick Allen was certainly out of the ordinary.

But in Dick Allen's case, being "different" managed to change the game of baseball.


Play at the Plate said...

That SI cover is hilarious.

Jim from Downingtown said...

I love that "if a cow can't eat it" card. Never saw it before.

Although the Philly fans were ready to see him go in 1969, I remember that Allen's return in 1975 was a much-anticipated, exciting event in Philadelphia.

By the end of 1976, Allen was back to battling Phillies' management, this time over their decision to leave Allen's friend and long-time teammate Tony Taylor off the post-season roster. (Taylor was a pinch-hitter extrodinaire that season.) The Phillies "compromised" by making Taylor a coach for the post-season.