Blasts from the Past: Dick Allen
It’s 70’s night tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, and as I sit here and watch Chuck Garfien on White Sox pregame live wearing a suit he almost certainly picked up at a local thrift store on his way to the ballpark, I couldn’t help but wonder why Dick Allen doesn’t get any love.
Allen’s hay day came long before I was even a twinkle in my daddy’s eye, as a matter of fact when Allen won the AL MVP in 1972 my father was a high school sophomore. However, that’s not to say that Allen’s accomplishments are lost on me.
I’ve always been a bit of a history buff because I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to understand where we’ve been to get a grasp on where exactly it is that we are headed. As a history buff, it’s unfortunate to think that there is an entire generation of White Sox fans who are unaware of just how good Dick Allen was.
Allen made his Major League debut on September 3, 1963, as part of the Philadelphia Phillies 1963 September call-ups. Allen played sparingly during that fateful month in 1963, but the following season he won a job with the Phils and was named the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year. Over the following three seasons, Allen made it to three Midsummer Classics and quickly earned a reputation as one of the games bright young stars.
Allen spent two more seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, posting solid numbers before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the end of the 1969 season. In 1970, his only season with the “Redbirds”, Allen made his fourth All-Star game appearance and was promptly traded again at season’s end, this time to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His only season with the Dodgers was a down year by his standards, and at the end of the 1971 campaign Allen was traded for the third time in as many years. This time he found himself on the South Side playing with the Chicago White Sox, and apparently it was a move that set well with Allen.
In 1972, Allen exploded for 37 home runs and 113 runs batted in, leading the American League in both categories. Allen also led the league in walks, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and on base plus slugging, and he went on to win the 1972 AL MVP award. Unfortunately for the South Siders, Allen’s White Sox fell 5.5 games short of the eventual World Champion Oakland Athletics in the AL West.
Over the next two seasons in Chicago, “The Wampum Walloper” made two more All-Star games before closing out his career with two less than memorable seasons back in Philadelphia and a pit stop in Oakland. Following the 1977 season, Dick Allen retired at the age of 35.
In his 15 seasons playing professional baseball, Allen put up staggering numbers for his era and collected numerous accolades. Which beckons the question, how is Allen not in the Hall of Fame?
As I was researching this piece, I was flabbergasted by how impressive Allen’s resume actually is. Dick is one of only about 20 players in MLB history to win both the ROY and MVP awards in their careers. Allen was also a seven time All-Star and boasts career numbers of .292/351/1119.
Perhaps the most tell-tale statistic in favor of Dick Allen’s HOF chances, is his .912 career OPS (on base plus slugging.) That number is good enough to place him 55th currently on the all-time list, and 90-95% of the people ahead of him on that list are either in the HOF or will make it in the HOF. Even more impressive are the names that fall behind him on that list, which includes McCovey, Stargell, Schmidt, and Griffey Jr.
Roll it all together and you can put together a resume that should at least put you in the discussion for the Hall of Fame, yet Allen has never garnered more than 19% of the vote.
Often times when you look at a player’s HOF chances, you are forced to examine them in perspective to their generation, and the bottom line is that for over a decade from 1964-1974 there weren’t many people in the game more feared or respected than Allen.
Allen only spent three years with my beloved White Sox, and they were well before my time, but he left enough of an impression on the organization for me to write this piece almost 35 years after he played his final game. That’s quite the testament to the amount of talent Dick Allen had, but it’s nowhere near the honor that he deserves.
Chicago has already seen one of its icons die waiting on the hall (Ron Santo), and while Allen may not be appreciated on that grand of a scale, I still feel the need to implore the HOF not to let another Chicago baseball player die before he gets to see his bronze plaque.