Dick Allen, Baseball Bad Boy June 12, 1972

July 18, 1999

One habit Dick Allen--the chain-smoking, hard-drinking,
horseplaying, perpetually late bad boy of the 1960s--can't seem
to break is baseball. At 57, long after a 15-year big league
career during which he changed teams five times and retired
twice, Allen is back as a roving minor league instructor with
the Philadelphia Phillies, the team he signed with in 1960 and
spent the next decade trying to escape. Of his new job with the
Phillies, the Wampum, Pa., native laughs and, paraphrasing a
state slogan, says, "I think I've finally found a friend in
Pennsylvania."

Thirty years ago Dick Allen was not enamored of the City of
Brotherly Love. His Edwardian suits and luxuriant Afro didn't
fit in with white, working-class Phillies fans, and the press
kept a tally of his every misstep. The fans booed him
mercilessly, called him the n word (which upset him) and Richie
(which infuriated him), and threw loose change and fried-chicken
bones at him. Allen, who protested passively by wearing a
batting helmet in the field, had learned early in his career, as
the first black with the Phillies' Little Rock affiliate, that
fans can also be your enemies.

The best weapon Allen had against his critics was a 42-ounce
bat, with which he smacked Ruthian homers. In 1964 Allen won the
National League Rookie of the Year and was called a sure bet for
the Triple Crown by Philadelphia manager Gene Mauch. Allen came
within 10 batting average points of that accomplishment with the
White Sox in '72, when he hit .308 with 37 homers and 113 RBIs
and won the American League MVP award. Since retiring in 1977
(with 351 home runs and a .292 average), Allen has dabbled in
horse racing.

In his new position he is less a coach than a mentor to those
Phillies farmhands who are still adjusting to the life of
professional baseball. Says Allen, "I look at some of these
young men and see myself. The thing is, young players on their
way up are like children on a high chair: You must tell them to
watch out because they have no idea what it's like to fall."

Crash, as the nonconformist came to be known, spends most of the
off-season with his second wife, Willa, and his two grown sons,
relaxing in the farmhouse he had built for his late mother with
his $70,000 signing bonus. Family life allows him to watch over
the career of a most promising young player: three-year-old
Dickie Allen III, who, according to his grandpa, "swings the bat
from side to side like you wouldn't believe. He might really
amount to something." But, adds Allen, ever unhurried, "There's
no rush."

--Kelley King

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO (COVER) COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS

"Young players are like children on a high chair," says Allen.
"They have no idea what it's like to fall."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)