From his "Futility Infielder" days as one of the original baseball bloggers to his time at Baseball Prospectus and now Sports Illustrated, Jay Jaffe has been one of the best baseball writers in the business for two decades. We're pleased to share the following excerpt from his new book, The Cooperstown Casebook.
Case Study: Dick Allen
"Dick Allen forced Philadelphia baseball and its fans to come to terms with the racism that existed in this city in the ’60s and ’70s. He may not have done it with the self-discipline or tact of Jackie Robinson, but he exemplified the emerging independence of major league baseball players as well as growing black consciousness." —William Kashatus
At first glance, Dick Allen might be viewed as the Gary Sheffield or Albert Belle of his day, a heavy hitter seemingly engaged in a constant battle with the world around him, generating controversy at every stop of his 15-year career. It’s unfair and reductive to lump Allen in with those two players, however, for they all faced different obstacles and bore different scars from the wounds they suffered early in their careers.
In Allen’s case, those wounds predated his 1963 arrival in the majors with a team that was far behind the integration curve, and a city that was in no better shape. In Philadelphia and beyond, he was a polarizing presence, covered by a media contingent so unable or unwilling to relate to him that writers often refused to call him by the name of his choosing: Dick Allen, not Richie.
Even while earning All-Star honors seven times and winning both NL Rookie of the Year and AL Most Valuable Player awards, Allen rebelled against his surroundings and presented himself in a way that often reinforced negative impressions while overshadowing his tremendous talent. Had he not missed so much time due to injuries, absenteeism, and alcohol, he’d almost certainly have the counting stats for Cooperstown. While past generations of voters wrote him off for those shortcomings, more recent research has yielded a better understanding of the context for his behavior—and shown that for all of the negativity that colored the coverage of him, he was respected and even beloved by many a teammate and manager.
Allen struggled for support during his 1983–97 run on the BBWAA ballot, never reaching 20%, and he similarly lagged in the voting of the expanded Veterans Committee from 2003–09. Thanks in part to a grassroots campaign, he received a fresh look from the 2015 Golden Era Committee and fell just one vote short of election. Alas, the reshuffling of the Era Committees means that he won’t get another look until the 2021 Golden Days panel, making it difficult to build upon that momentum.
Phillies 1963–69, 1975–76 • Cardinals 1970 • Dodgers 1971 • White Sox 1972–74 • A’s 1977
Allen was born in 1942 in Wampum, Pennsylvania, a small town 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, the second-youngest of eight children born to Era Allen, a domestic employee, and Coy Allen, a traveling truck driver and sanitation worker. One of just five black students in a class of 146, he starred not only as the shortstop of the Wampum High School baseball team but as the captain and point guard of the basketball team, the latter despite standing just 5′11″, 187 pounds. In 1958, he played alongside his brothers Hank (b. 1940) and Ron (b. 1943), all three of whom would earn All-State honors on the court and later play Major League Baseball.
Phillies scout Jack Ogden, a former pitcher whose major league career spanned 1918–32, courted all three Allen brothers, and endeared himself to Era by agreeing to sign the trio—Hank and Dick in 1960, Ron in 1964. Dick’s $70,000 bonus was the largest ever paid to a black ballplayer at the time. Ogden would later say, “Dick Allen was my best find. I scouted 90,000 players in my lifetime and Allen was the greatest I ever saw. It’s too bad he had so many difficulties.”
Nineteen-year-old Hank and 18-year-old Dick were both assigned to Elmira of the New York-Penn League, where the latter made a whopping 48 errors in 85 games at shortstop, though his bat showed more promise. His offense improved even more as he passed through Magic Valley (Utah) of the Pioneer League and Williamsport of the Eastern League in 1961 and ’62, shifting to second base and then the outfield, hitting .329/.409/.548 with 20 homers and 109 RBI at the latter stop.
The Phillies had spent most of the previous four and a half decades as embarrassments, with 20 last-place finishes and just six seasons above .500 from 1918–62. In 1947, they treated Jackie Robinson as poorly as any NL team, with general manager Herb Pennock (now a Hall of Fame pitcher) threatening a boycott if Robinson played in Philadelphia and manager Ben Chapman viciously taunting the integration pioneer once he did. Though the team captured its first pennant in 35 years in 1950 and remained contenders for the next few seasons, they were the last NL team to integrate, in 1957. With the Dodgers, Giants, and Braves having gotten the jump much earlier, the Phillies’ stance cost them dearly. They finished at .500 twice from 1954–61, but never above, and ran dead last for four straight years before climbing to 81-80 in ’62 under second-year manager Gene Mauch.
Invited to spring training in 1963, Allen hit nine home runs, but with the Phillies’ outfield set between Wes Covington, Tony Gonzalez, and Johnny Callison, the team sent him to its Triple-A affiliate, the Little Rock–based Arkansas Travelers. Just six years earlier, Little Rock had been the site of an ugly scene when Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard in order to prevent the court-ordered desegregation of Little Rock High School. The Phillies gave Allen no idea what to expect in becoming the first black professional baseball player in the state; the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat both told their reporters not to mention that fact to avoid stirring things up.
Racial tensions ran particularly high the night that Allen debuted, with Faubus himself throwing out the first pitch and picketers carrying signs with slogans such as “Don’t Negro-ize baseball” and “Nigger go home.” Similar signs had greeted him at the Little Rock airport. Allen was so rattled that the first ball hit to him in left field flew way over his head. He recovered to hit two doubles, including one amid the winning rally, but on his car after the game, he was greeted with a note: “DON’T COME BACK AGAIN NIGGER.” After receiving death threats and telling the Phillies he was quitting, he was rebuked by older brother Coy as well as his mother for pleading to come home. He developed a resolve to stick it out, vowing, “If I’m going to die, why not die doing what God gave me a gift to do? I’ll die right there in that batter’s box without any fear.”
Fortunately it didn’t come to that, though Allen received countless threats throughout the season. He lived with a black family in the black section of the segregated town, was often stopped by local police for no apparent reason, and couldn’t be served in restaurants unless accompanied by a white teammate. Manager Frank Lucchesi, who respected his ability, couldn’t relate to his circumstances, and Allen had few friends on the team. Nonetheless, he hit .289/.341/.550 while leading the league with 33 homers and 97 RBI and being voted team MVP by fans, even while enduring epithets on a regular basis. Called up to Philadelphia at season’s end, he went 7-for-24 in a 10-game trial, mostly in left field.
The following spring Mauch decided to squeeze the righty-swinging Allen into the predominantly left-handed lineup at third base, a position he had never played regularly. “He can play third good enough to get by,” said Mauch. “He has good reactions and good hands and third isn’t as demanding a spot as short or second where he began his career.” For unclear reasons, the Phillies insisted upon calling him “Richie,” a name he detested but which appeared on all of the team’s rosters, scorecards, and promotional material. In September, just before the Phillies’ infamous collapse, Allen complained, “[Richie] makes me sound like I’m ten years old. I’m 22. … Anyone who knows me well calls me Dick. I don’t know why as soon as I put on a uniform it’s Richie.”
By any name, Allen put up a season for the ages, batting .318/.382/.557 with 201 hits, 13 triples, and 29 homers in 162 games, enough to make him the runaway NL Rookie of the Year. His 162 OPS+ and 8.8 WAR both ranked third in the league, and the latter ranks third among all rookie position players, topped only by Shoeless Joe Jackson (9.2 in 1911) and Mike Trout (10.8 in 2012). Allen’s performance nearly carried the Phillies to a pennant; they led by 6½ games with just 12 to play, but a 10-game losing streak spelled their doom. Lest anyone think Allen was at fault, he batted .341/.434/.618 in September and October, going 17-for-41 during their 10-game slide.
That rookie season began a six-year run over which Allen hit .300/.380/.555 for a 164 OPS+ and an average of 30 homers per year. He led the NL in slugging percentage in ’66 (.632), in on-base percentage in ’67 (.404), and in OPS+ in both years (181 and 174, respectively). He ranked among the league’s top 10 in homers five times in that span, including second in both ’66 (40) and ’68 (33), and made three straight All-Star teams. The Phillies bounced him around the diamond on a nearly annual basis; he spent significant time in left field in ’66 and ’68, and at first base in ’69.
As good as he was, Allen couldn’t singlehandedly push the Phillies over the top, though they finished above .500 in 1965, ’66, and ’67. And he did not have an easy time of it. Those outstanding numbers glossed over no shortage of controversies, starting with a July 3, 1965, pregame altercation with reserve outfielder Frank Thomas—triggered by taunting from Callison—that escalated with Thomas calling Allen “Richie X” and “another Muhammad Clay, always running your mouth off,” Allen punching Thomas in the jaw, and Thomas countering with his bat to Allen’s left shoulder. Allen had previously experienced difficulties with Thomas, who “would pretend to offer his hand in a soul shake to a young black player. … When the player would offer his hand in return, Thomas would grab his thumb and bend it back. To him, it was a big joke.”
Though Thomas homered as a pinch-hitter in the game following the altercation—after which Allen shook his hand, considering the matter settled—the 36-year-old was placed on waivers immediately afterward, over Allen’s protestations. Mauch, happy to jettison an aging, disruptive player, threatened to fine Allen $2,500 and any other Phillie $1,500 if they discussed the incident with the press. Thus, only the departed Thomas aired his side, claiming that the Phillies acted unfairly in punishing one player but not the other and that Allen “can dish it out but can’t take it.” The manager later regretted his course of action, saying, “The way it was handled brought the town down on Richie’s head. … I should have shipped [Thomas] sooner.”
“That was unfortunate as the press and the fans heard just Thomas’s side, and they did not take kindly to a young black guy popping a white veteran,” wrote sabermetrician Craig Wright in 1995. In a city that had been torn by race riots less than a year before, fans hung banners in support of Thomas and sent Allen hate mail, called him “darkie” and “monkey” from the stands, and threw bottles, bolts, and coins at him in the outfield to the point that he took to wearing a helmet in the field. The press labeled him a troublemaker. Amid the pressure and abuse Allen turned to alcohol: “Instead of going straight to the ballpark,” he recalled later, “I started making regular stops at watering holes along the way.” Mauch fined him regularly, but tried to protect him from the press.
Even without the bottle, Allen found trouble, and his critics assumed the worst with regards to his conduct. On August 24, 1967, while trying to push his stalled car up a driveway, he put his right hand through a headlight, severing tendons and nerves and requiring a five-hour operation that ended his season 40 games early. Unsubstantiated rumors spread that he had been stabbed in a bar fight or jumped out a window after being caught with a teammate’s wife. The injury cost Allen some sensation in two of his fingers; he struggled with throwing during the rest of his career, especially in cold weather, and never spent a full season at third base again.
Though Allen negotiated a salary of $85,000 for 1968—the highest for a fourth-year player in the game at that point—he wanted out of Philadelphia. With free agency not yet an option, he embarked upon a series of minor transgressions in hopes of triggering a trade. He left spring training without permission, claiming to have gone to see a doctor in Philadelphia about his hand. He showed up for games late and, in late May, drunk. The team suspended him for two weeks, covering by saying he had a groin injury. When he returned, Allen declared “a sit-down strike” and refused to play until he could give his side of the story.
Behind closed doors, Allen agreed to a truce, telling owner Bob Carpenter he was ready to play. An incensed Mauch gave the owner a “me or him” ultimatum, but was fired on June 15, when the team was 27-27. He took the high road on the way out. “I’m not going to knock Richie Allen. … That son-of-a-gun gave me many a thrill. There was nothing personal in my handling of Allen.” Still, the press hung the blame for Mauch’s firing on Allen, and while he went on a hot streak under new manager Bob Skinner, the team finished 76-86.
In the winter of 1968–69, the Phillies tried to move Allen to the Mets or Indians, but their asking price was too high. Soon Allen was up to his old tricks, missing flights and even games. He wanted out, blamed the press for turning fans against him, and spoke openly about the part he felt race played in the matter:
"I get along great with my teammates. But you fellas have created an atmosphere where people who have never met me, hate me. You can knock me and say I’m a no good black so and so and I can still be your friend. But if you don’t ask me about something and take someone else’s word for it and write it as fact, then I got to cut you loose. Sometimes I get so disgusted. I really do love to play the game, but the writers take all the fun out of it."
Soon Allen’s teammates tore into him for his lackadaisical approach, which only led the slugger to rebel further. He missed a doubleheader against the Mets in favor of a horse race, and was suspended indefinitely—26 days, eventually, costing him $11,700 in salary—returning only after ownership agreed to trade him at the end of the season. The controversy led Phillies fans to abstain from voting him into the All-Star Game or onto the franchise’s all-time team as part of baseball’s centennial celebration.
After a drawn-out battle over Allen’s use of a storage area as a private dressing room, Skinner resigned, and Allen was again scapegoated. A Sporting News editorial took a stand against him: “If ever a young man needed some counseling and guidance, that man is Richie Allen. The Phillies slugger has $1,000,000 worth of talent and 10¢ worth of ability to understand what his role is with a team that has 24 other players besides himself. Unless a firm hand is taken with Allen, he’ll go through more managers than Bluebeard does wives.”
Going nowhere given their pitching, the Phillies finished 63-99. Allen took advantage of interim manager George Myatt’s refusal to stir up further trouble, and began scratching out words in the dirt around first base, such as “OCT. 2” (the final date of the season), “BOO” (the fans obliged), “NO,” and “WHY?” (in response to commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s order to stop doing that). On October 7, five days after the end of the season, he was traded to the Cardinals in a seven-player blockbuster, with Tim McCarver and Curt Flood heading the other direction. Flood—who would later describe Philadelphia as “America’s northern-most Southern city”—refused to report, setting off a challenge to the Reserve Clause that would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (Flood lost but the challenge paved the way for free agency).
Allen was overjoyed at the deal. “You don’t know how good it feels to get out of Philadelphia,” he said. “They treat you like cattle.”
The Cardinals had won back-to-back pennants in 1967–68, but slipped to fourth place in the new NL East in 1969. Allen hit well (.279/.377/.560 with 34 homers in 122 games), but a hamstring injury limited him to five of the final 44 games. Come October 5, 1970, he was traded to the Dodgers for two young players. While he avoided trouble in St. Louis, the Cardinals wanted to emphasize defense, not Allen’s forte; today’s metrics estimate that he was 14 runs below average splitting time at first and third. He delivered 5.4 WAR in his lone season in L.A. while again bouncing around the diamond, but chafed at what he felt were distracting public relations commitments. The Dodgers went 89-73, finishing one game back in the NL West.
For the third offseason in a row, Allen was traded, this time to the White Sox for two players, including pitcher Tommy John. Playing for manager Chuck Tanner, a native of New Castle, Pennsylvania (not far from Wampum), and again letting the media know that he preferred to be called Dick instead of Richie (a request still routinely ignored), Allen settled in at first base and hit .308/.420/.603 with a 199 OPS+, 37 homers, and 113 RBI. All of those numbers except his batting average led the league, while his 8.6 WAR, his best since his rookie campaign, ranked third.
The White Sox, who had not finished above .500 since 1967, went 87-67, finishing 5½ games out, and Allen was the runaway AL MVP, receiving 21 of 24 first-place votes. His appearance on the June 12, 1972, Sports Illustrated produced an indelible image. With a lit cigarette between his lips, mustache and muttonchop sideburns nearly intersecting, he looks like a lost funk bassist wearing the White Sox’s red pinstriped uniform. What’s more, he’s juggling three baseballs next to an on-the-nose caption: “Season of Surprises: Dick Allen Juggles His Image.”
After signing a three-year, $675,000 deal, believed to be the largest in the game at the time, Allen was similarly effective in both 1973 and ’74 despite injuries that limited him to just 200 games. On June 28, 1973, he collided at first base while stretching for a throw, suffering a hairline fracture of his left fibula. He returned five weeks later, limped while going 3-for-4 in his return, and was shut down for the season after two pinch-hitting appearances. Some accused him of malingering, but as White Sox general manager Roland Hemond later told Craig Wright, “The leg wasn’t healed. The doctor knew it, but Dick wanted to try. .. His teammates appreciated the effort, but some people in the press may not have understood. He seemed indestructible to them.”
Allen hit .301/.375/.563 in 1974, making his seventh All-Star team and leading the league in both slugging percentage and homers (32) in just 128 games. Alas, a mid-August shoulder injury sapped both his power and his will to play. On September 13, he showed up at Comiskey Park, took batting and infield practice, then gave an emotional speech to his teammates and announced his retirement at age 32, with a year and $225,000 still to go on his contract. “This is hard for me to say,” he told them. “I’ve never been happier anywhere than here.”
Hemond and Tanner talked Allen out of officially filing retirement paperwork, which would have prevented him from returning until six weeks into 1975. On the off chance that he might play, the Braves acquired his rights for a player to be named later in December. Meanwhile, Phillies broadcaster Richie Ashburn lobbied the organization to reacquire him. Now playing in Veterans Stadium rather than Connie Mack Stadium, which had been situated in a racially divided neighborhood, the Phillies were a different team. Laden with young talents Mike Schmidt (who grew up idolizing Allen), Greg Luzinski, Dave Cash, Larry Bowa, and Bob Boone, they were managed by Danny Ozark, who had coached the Dodgers during Allen’s 1971 stay.
Allen remained at home until the Phillies negotiated a four-player trade on May 7. He debuted on May 14, receiving a standing ovation from the Veterans Stadium crowd of 30,908. “You don’t know what it means to me,” he told reporters. “It’s a different situation altogether.” The fans could heal only so much; Allen hit just .233/.327/.385 with 12 homers in 119 games.
In 1976, Ozark and Allen clashed over the quality of the latter’s defense, and he found himself benched. Shoulder woes and a 39-game absence due to dizziness following a jarring collision at first base further cut into his time but he still hit .268/.346/.480 with 15 homers in 339 PA. The Phillies won 101 games and their first NL East flag. In his only postseason appearance, Allen went 2-for-9 with three walks, but made a key error in Game 2 of the NLCS as the Phillies were swept by the Reds.
Informed that he would not be re-signed, Allen caught on with the A’s, who had been decimated by the first winter of free agency. Though productive early in the season, he not only cooled off but refused to DH; unbeknownst to manager Jack McKeon, owner Charlie Finley had written a clause into Allen’s contract excusing him from DH duty. Eventually shoulder problems, a slump, and another unexcused absence led to his release. While Tanner tried to talk him into joining the Pirates— whom he was then managing—in 1979, when Allen was 37, he never played again.
Allen spent more time at first base (807 games) than third (652) or left field (256), but for JAWS purposes, he’s a third baseman; five of his top six WAR totals came in seasons where he played more third than anywhere else. His was a short career by Hall of Fame standards, in part due to his injuries and other absences, and in part to his early retirement. His totals of games played (1,749) and hits (1,848), present a problem in this context. Only one Hall of Famer from the post-1960 expansion era played in fewer than 2,000 games (Kirby Puckett, 1,783) and none had fewer than 2,000 hits. All of which underscores the uphill battle Allen has to enshrinement, at least with regards to traditional counting stats.
Allen’s total of 351 homers is less impressive for its volume than its context. In the 16-season span from 1961–76, a low-scoring period demarcated by the first and third waves of expansion, Allen hit 346 homers, more than all but Harmon Killebrew (489), Willie McCovey (439), and Norm Cash (355). From 1964–74, the 11-season heart of his career, he led his league twice, ranked second twice, and had four other top 10 finishes.
The rate stats further testify to Allen’s dominance. In that same 11-year stretch, he had 20 top 10 finishes in a slash stat, leading in OBP twice and in slugging three times. He led in OPS+ three times and was twice runner-up, with five more finishes in the top 10, meaning that in each of the 10 years in which he qualified for the batting title he was one of the league’s 10 most potent hitters.
Career-wise, among players with at least 7,000 PA, Allen’s 156 OPS+ is tied for 15th all-time with Frank Thomas (the White Sox slugger, not the Phillies assailant) and Willie Mays—both of whom had much longer careers, but that’s the point of the cutoff. Convert that potency to batting runs and Allen’s 435 above average ranks 52nd, a tad less impressive but still on par with Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Stargell, and George Brett, all of whom needed at least 1,712 more plate appearances to approximate Allen’s total.
Combine all that with his seven All-Star appearances and his Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, and Allen scores a 99 on the Hall of Fame Monitor, in the general vicinity of a “likely” Hall of Famer. That score is held down by his minimal postseason résumé and his defensive shortcomings. He was nothing close to a Gold Glove candidate, but then, given the Phillies’ desperate rush to convert him to third base, what should anyone have expected?
Via Total Zone, Allen’s total of 110 runs below average at all positions ranks as the 11th-worst in history. He was 45 runs below average at third (nine per 1,200 innings); 40 below average at first (seven per 1,200 innings), and 24 below average in leftfield (13 per 1,200 innings). That’s nearly DH-caliber, but of course the DH didn’t exist in those days, and Allen was none too keen on the idea once it did. Yet even while costing his team roughly nine runs per year with his glove, Allen’s bat carried the weight and more. He ranked among the league’s top 10 in WAR six times, thrice in the top five. For that 1964–74 span, only Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski, Ron Santo, and Brooks Robinson topped Allen’s 58.3 WAR.
Measured against third basemen, Allen’s 58.7 career WAR ranks 17th, 8.8 wins below the standard; among Hall of Famers, he’s ahead of only the three bottom-tier guys (George Kell, Pie Traynor, and Fred Lindstrom) and two with their roots in the nineteenth century, Deacon White and Jimmy Collins. His 45.8 WAR peak ranks 11th, 3.1 wins above the standard, however, and, ahead of the aforementioned plus Molitor, not to mention popular defense-first candidates such as Scott Rolen and Graig Nettles. Overall, his 52.3 JAWS ranks 17th, 2.7 points below the standard. Considering Allen as a first baseman doesn’t change a whole lot. At that position he’d rank 11th in peak (3.4 above the standard) and 17th in JAWS, 1.9 points below the standard but ahead of 10 enshrined first basemen, including another slugger who bounced around the diamond in an effort to hide his glove, Killebrew.
Any way you slice it, Allen’s a bit short on the JAWS front, so choosing to vote for him means focusing on that considerable peak while giving him the benefit of the doubt on the factors that shortened his career. From here, the litany is sizable enough to justify that. Allen did nothing to deserve the racism and hatred he battled in Little Rock and Philadelphia, or the condescension of the lily-white media that refused to even call him by his correct name. To underplay the extent to which those forces shaped his conduct and his public persona thereafter is to hold him to an impossibly high standard; not everyone can be Jackie Robinson or Ernie Banks. The distortions that influenced the negative views of him— including Bill James’s crushing dismissal (“[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”) in The Politics of Glory—were damaging. To give them the upper hand is to reject honest inquiry into his career.
Sabermetrician Don Malcolm called that passage “the absolute nadir of Bill James’ career, a summary statement so blatantly biased that his long-time friend and associate Craig Wright felt compelled to write an essay refuting Bill’s perspective. … Everyone knows that Dick Allen was a great hitter; there’s just all that other baggage that they’re afraid to open.” Having opened it, well, it’s not pretty, but it’s also abundantly clear that it wasn’t all Allen’s baggage to begin with. Wright’s work, which featured interviews with all but one of Allen’s big league managers (the late Dodgers skipper Walter Alston) as well as several teammates, refutes the notion that Allen was a divisive clubhouse presence or a particular problem for his managers aside from his early-career tardiness (and his extreme behavior in 1969). Even Skinner and Ozark, the two managers portrayed as the most openly critical of him, said that Allen wasn’t the problem with their teams and that they’d have him back again if given the chance.
Perhaps not surprisingly given his tumultuous career and shortage in the counting stats, Allen never fared well in front of BBWAA voters. He received just 3.7% in his 1983 debut (when venerable scribes such as Jack Lang and Charley Feeney patronizingly resurrected “Richie Allen” in their Sporting News coverage), enough to bump him off the ballot. Via a 1985 compromise between the writers and the Hall over some rejiggering of the Five Percent Rule, 150 such candidates were reviewed by the BBWAA Screening Committee, with 11 getting “one more chance” including Allen, Ken Boyer, Flood, and Ron Santo. Allen received 7.1%, more than all of the others save for Boyer (17.2%) and Santo (13.4%), enough at least to keep his name in circulation. He lingered on the ballot through 1997, topping out at 18.9% in ’96.
After aging off the writers’ ballot, Allen fell under the purview of the enlarged Veterans Committee, where he maxed out at 16.0% in 2003, the first of four tries. He wasn’t included on the 2012 Expansion Era Committee ballot, via which Santo was posthumously elected, but was on in 2015. Thanks to the outreach campaign led by Mark Carfagno, a former Phillies grounds crew member, his candidacy drew widespread attention. On a committee that included former teammate Jim Bunning (the Phillies’ ace during Allen’s first stint), Pat Gillick (then-president of the Phillies), and Hemond (GM of the White Sox during his stay there), Allen received 11 of 16 votes—tied with Tony Oliva for the highest among the 10 candidates, but one vote short of election nonetheless. It was a bittersweet result. Gillick did attempt to reassure the public that Allen’s candidacy was viewed with a fresh eye. “If anybody had any concern about any press that was associated with Dick, that was not a concern.”
The good news is that Allen finally received a fair hearing on the merits of his skill rather than the chorus of his detractors. The bad news is that since he’s been classified for inclusion on the Golden Days Era Committee (for players whose greatest impact was between 1950–69) instead of the Modern Baseball one (1970– 87), his candidacy won’t be reviewed again until the 2021 ballot, rather than 2018 and/or ’20. He had more value in the earlier period (35.2 WAR to 23.5) but more games in the latter (883 to 866), not to mention more All-Star appearances (four to three) and his MVP award. It’s an understandable decision but a tough break for a man who will be 78 when the voters next convene, and he’ll hardly be without competition, as Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and Gil Hodges, all of whom have received substantial support in a similar context, figure to be on that ballot as well. Here’s hoping Allen’s candidacy can maintain its momentum until then.