When the taste for baseball was fresh and sweet in the mouth of Richard Anthony Allen, then in his third season for the interesting Philadelphia Phillies of 1966, he hit only four home runs during the months of April and May while on his way to gathering 40 for the season. With May not yet over in 1970, Allen, now the Redbird of Happiness in St. Louis, quite obviously has had that appetite restored. Last week he launched his 16th homer of the year and it came in—yep—Philadelphia. When the ball soared out of Connie Mack Stadium it seemed on its way to at least Wilmington, Del. It was Allen's fifth home run against his former team in five games. The Phillies, located in last place in the Eastern Division of the National League, will be forced to play Allen and the Cardinals only a dozen more times this year. And that, to Phillie fans, is a rare break indeed.
Last Saturday evening, after a horrendous string of tough luck, the Phillies found that they could not even get themselves postponed. It rained for an hour and a half and stopped just in time for Allen to homer across all three runs as Philadelphia lost its 12th of 14 games, 3-1. The way the Phillies have been going, if it rained soup they would have forks in their hands.
Allen's arrival in Philadelphia was one of the more delightful happenings of the first quarter of this season. Delightful, that is, unless one is R.R.M. Carpenter Jr., the owner of the Phutile Phillies, or one of the many fans who had hoped this year would be "...a new ball-game," as it says on the cover of the team's yearbook.
Signs of welcome and derision hung from the stands of Connie Mack Stadium, that collection of fading brick and steel that squats on 21st and Lehigh. "Rich Allen Fan (?) Club" read one. "Allen MVP" and "How do you like your new babysitter, Richie!" said others. Allen arrived at the clubhouse an hour and a half before game time, which might be a local record, and said, among other things, "If this was to be my last night in baseball I would like to thank God for giving me the chance to be a Cardinal." He was cheered and booed but mostly cheered and his arrival brought back into focus what, because of its ramifications, is turning out to be one of the most discussed baseball trades ever.
Allen, of course, is doing very well since going from Philadelphia to St. Louis. Jerry Johnson, a pitcher who went with Allen, is now a San Francisco Giant after winning two games and losing none for the Cardinals, while Cookie Rojas is hitting around .100. On the other side of the fence the results are almost enough to make one cry. Curt Flood is challenging the very structure of baseball and sitting the season out, Catcher Tim McCarver has a broken hand, Byron Browne is batting barely .200 and Relief Pitcher Joe Hoerner has a 2-2 record, an earned run average of 3.60 and four saves. Willie Montanez, the bright prospect sent from St. Louis to Philadelphia to compensate for Flood's failure to report, is hitting .250 at Eugene, Ore. and has one home run.
With Allen in their lineup, the Cardinals are hitting more home runs than last year and they have increased their scoring by a third over last season's. With Allen out of their lineup, the Phillies have known nothing but misery. An aggressive press-relations program was supposed to create the image of "The Thoroughly Modern Phillies," a young team that would run and hit its way into the cold hearts of Philadelphians who, according to ex-Phil Catcher Bob Uecker, "boo the losers in an Easter egg hunt." But things are so bad that the new $50 million stadium that the team was supposed to get into this summer may not be open for football. As Manager Frank Lucchesi said at low tide last week, "I even lit a candle in church in Pittsburgh and it blew out."
The season didn't start off that way. The Phillies won their first three games, giving up a total of only three runs to the powerful Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. They were still at .500 when an absurd pair of injuries occurred during one inning in San Francisco. A Willie Mays foul tip broke the fourth metacarpal bone on McCarver's right hand. Mike Ryan replaced McCarver and Willie McCovey slid into him, breaking the second metacarpal on Ryan's left hand. "When I got to the hospital," McCarver recalled last week, "the nurse said, 'We've been waiting for you Mr. Ryan.' I said, 'No, I'm McCarver. Ryan is catching at Candlestick.' 'No,' she said, 'Ryan is supposed to be on his way here with a broken hand.' I just stood there and looked at her."
Then things got bad. The Phillies scored seven runs in the first inning of a game against the San Diego Padres and lost and on May 11 Allen played against his former teammates for the first time. In a finely pitched game by Jim Bunning, Allen came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score 0-0 and hit a three-run homer. The following day he launched a monster against Philadelphia with one man on and the Cardinals trailing 4-5. That homer drove the Phillies to a 9-5 loss.
As if all this were not enough, the sad events of last week were almost unbearable. On Monday the Phillies had the winning run scored against them while they were at bat. This bizarre turn of fortune got started in the bottom of the seventh inning at Pittsburgh. The score was tied 1-1 with Manny Sanguillen of the Pirates on second base and one out. Bill Mazeroski singled Sanguillen to third and then Bunning threw a 1-2 pitch to Bob Moose that sailed past Catcher Del Bates. Plate Umpire Satch Davidson called the pitch a ball and when Bates retrieved the ball he threw it to third to catch Mazeroski, who was trying to advance two bases. Bunning then claimed that Moose had swung at the pitch for the third strike. Umpire Augie Donatelli ruled that he had and that he was out. Davidson ruled that Sanguillen's run did not count since the inning had ended in a double play. Following a huge argument the Phillies came to bat and had one out in the inning when the umpires reversed themselves and put the run up on the board.
That ended the scoring in the game but not the Phillies' hard luck. Two days later they lost again to Pittsburgh, this time when a run was scored from first base in the 14th inning on consecutive wild pitches by Reliever Dick Selma. The second of these hit the backstop in Forbes Field and bounded 25 feet up in the air so that Catcher Bates could do nothing but pound his fist in his glove and wait for its earthly return. On Thursday the Phillies lost Third Baseman Don Money, their leading hitter with .356 and 22 runs batted in, for 10 days when a scorching ground ball skipped off the grass and hit him a fierce blow in the right eye. Less than 24 hours later Johnny Briggs, who had one less game-winning hit than Richie Allen's eight in 1969, pulled a hamstring muscle while stretching a double into a triple. Briggs will be out indefinitely. Saturday night Ricardo Joseph, a .273 batter last season and one who had delivered four hits, four runs batted in and two home runs in nine pinch-hitting appearance this year, reinjured his left hand and was lost for 15 days.
So light a candle for the Phillies in some quiet protected place and pray for them. They can take all the help they can get.