It was in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1963 with the AAA Travelers that Dick Allen remembered a police officer pointing a gun at him. He was at the soda machine, just trying to get a Pepsi.
He called his mother on a payphone later that night, it was all too much, being the only black player on a ballclub in middle-America during the days of Jim Crow. Allen’s mother told him one thing, she said “Now God gave you to me, he’s given you a talent and a place to show it… and don’t you let ‘em drive you out.”
Dick Allen did not let them drive him out.
For the next fifteen years, Allen feasted on National League and American League pitching alike, winning Rookie of the Year with the Phillies in 1964 and a MVP Award with the White Sox in 1972. He accumulated almost 2000 hits, and 351 home runs, leading the league twice, and had a career OPS+ of 156.
In Major League Baseball history, only four players who debuted after the beginning of the integration ERA in 1947 have a higher career OPS+, their names: Mark McGwire, Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout, and Barry Bonds.
In a comparative deadball era, from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s, Allen was a force. In 1968, during “the year of the pitcher,” Allen hit 33 home runs. Though he is remembered today as a power hitter, using a 42-ounce bat to blast meteor home runs out of Connie Mack Stadium, and he possessed unassuming speed as well.
Allen for his career stole 133 bases, caught 52 times. Even later in his career, as a slow older man back in Philadelphia, he wasn’t without his wits on the base paths. While injuries slowed him down and limited him to just 11 swiped bags a year in 1975 and '76, Allen was caught only six times total over those two seasons.
However, holding Allen back are his defensive capabilities. In just a 15-year career, Allen managed -110 DRS, about 11 wins below replacement through defense alone. That almost certainly held him back on his first go-around on the Baseball Writer's Association of America ballot.
In 1983, Allen’s first appearance on the BBWAA HOF ballot, he received just 3.9% of the vote, less than players like Don Larsen, Roy Face, and Lew Burdette, and not enough to remain eligible. He reappeared back on the ballot in 1985 due to a loophole stemming from the death of Ken Boyer, but by the end of his 15-year eligibility, he never received more than 20% of the vote.
Though it will be a posthumous honor, it seems increasingly likely that Allen will be inducted through the Veterans Committee in December. When he was last eligible for Veterans Committee induction in 2014, Allen received 11 of 12 necessary votes. Since then, like everyone else throughout baseball, the committee has become younger and more analytical.
This year, the Golden Days Committee meets on Dec. 5 at the Winter Meetings. So set your reminders for the Hall of Fame to add another Phillie this winter.
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