Dick Allen, who played 15 years in Major League Baseball in the 1960s and 1970s, is not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He fell one vote shy of getting elected to the Hall in 2014 by the Golden Era Committee, despite Allen’s power numbers during a time when pitchers dominated the game.
Most attribute that one vote to Allen’s reputation during his playing days as causing discord and not being a team player – issues many feel the press and even team officials distorted at the time.
Allen’s playing days happened as the league continued to integrate the game, an issue that remained troublesome 20 years after Jackie Robinson became a Brooklyn Dodger. There’s no doubt Allen experienced racism during his playing days. That contributed to the controversy surrounding him.
Reasons Why Dick Allen Should Be in Hall of Fame
Dick Allen has a power hitter resume that many feel is worthy of Cooperstown.
Fans have rallied around the idea that the Hall of Fame has slighted Allen. For example, videos on YouTube include baseball historians who say only Babe Ruth bests Allen as a power hitter.
Allen’s stats are strong. His first full season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964 earned him Rookie of the Year Honors. His career lifetime average was .292. He had a higher career slugging percentage (.534) than Mel Ott, Mike Schmidt, Ty Cobb and Edgar Martinez. He hit 34 home runs his one season in St. Louis, playing in a notorious pitcher’s park Busch Stadium.
Allen won the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1972. He led the AL in home runs twice. He played on seven All-Star teams. Between 1964 and 1974, Allen has the highest offensive Wins Against Replacement number, ahead of Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski and Joe Morgan.
He accomplished all this in a time many consider a second Dead Ball Era dominated by pitchers.
And Willie Mays thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame. Who knows better than Willie Mays? Apparently, one voting member of baseball’s Golden Era Committee.
Reasons Why Dick Allen Isn’t In the Hall of Fame
No one knows exactly why Allen did not get that one vote in 2014. Most suspect controversy is the culprit. And Allen had lots of it.
Bill James voiced strong criticism of Allen. He once wrote that Allen “did more to keep his teams from winning than anybody else who ever played major league baseball. And if that’s a Hall of Famer, I’m a lug nut.”
Many viewed him as not being a team player. Others said he stayed out longer than necessary with injuries. He also had a reputation for sewing discord, one that started after a fight with his Phillies teammate Frank Thomas in 1965.
However, the Sporting News found teammates from the time that said Thomas, a white player, was “deriding” a black player. Allen asked him to stop. Thomas reacted by picking up a bat and taking a swing at him. The Phillies cut Thomas. Fans blamed Allen.
The Sporting News talked to former teammates who said Allen played hard for the team. They said he played hurt and always gave his all. That is contrary to the portrait painted by some baseball writers at the time.
Dealing With Racism
Allen encountered racism was he came up through the minors. The triple-A Arkansas Travelers made him the first black player on the team. At his first game in Little Rock, fans showed up with a sign that read: “Let’s not NEGRO-ize our baseball,” among worse things, according to the Arkansas Encyclopedia of Culture and History.
A native of a racially tolerant small town in Pennsylvania, Allen admitted to being frightened.
In his year in Little Rock, Allen received threatening letters and warnings to leave town on his car. He lived with a black family in a black neighborhood in deeply segregated Little Rock. He only went to restaurants in the company of white players. He wrote in his autobiography, “Crash,” that he learned there were two sets of rules: one for the white players, and one for him.
Despite all of that – including fans yelling racial slurs at him during games – Allen hit .289 and led the International League with 33 home runs and 97 RBIs.
Fans also were tough on Allen in Philadelphia, throwing things at him when he was on the field. He took to wearing a batting helmet when playing his defensive position. The Phillies had been the last National League club to integrate, in 1957.
There were other issues that seemed strange and petty. For example, the Phillies didn’t use Allen’s real name, calling him “Richie.” The press followed suit. The Phillies never changed it in the seven years he played in Philadelphia.
Another issue was lateness. He was repeatedly fined through the years for arriving late at the ballpark.
However, no one has faulted his numbers, which are amazing given the era in which he played. Whether that eventually gets him into the Hall of Fame remains to be seen.