Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Dick Allen

Claim to fame: A seven-time All Star, 1972 American League MVP, and two-time home run champion, Allen may rank as one of the best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame. He’s certainly one of the best hitters of the 1960s not in Cooperstown, his 351 home runs and .292 batting average more a facet of his relatively short career and the fact he played in a celebrated pitcher’s era. One need only look at Allen’s OPS+ of 156, fourth best of any eligible player not enshrined, to know he was something special at the plate. Stats don’t tell the whole story with Allen, though.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Allen exhausted his time 0n the writers ballot in 1997, one of those players who had a cult of support with roughly the same small percentage of people voting for him each year. For staying on the ballot 14 years, Allen never got more than 20 percent of the vote and received less than 10 percent just four times. He can now be considered by the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? My quick take is yes, but I’m admittedly somewhat sentimental in these matters. Push come to shove, I probably wouldn’t have any problem enshrining Allen or other fan favorite players who’ve been long left out of Cooperstown like Ron Santo or Gil Hodges. I don’t believe the museum would be much worse statistically for their presence, and they seem like they’d have plaques parents would want their children to see. Isn’t that the point of the Hall of Fame?

Of course, the arguments against Allen (and Santo and Hodges and so many others) aren’t hard to see, either. Allen was horrific defensively, his defensive WAR of -10.6 knocking his overall WAR down to 61.2. I wonder if his defensive woes in contrast to his offensive prowess were part of the impetus for the designated hitter position, which originated in 1973 and featured a veteran Allen as one of the first. He was also finished at 35 in 1977 and a sub-replacement level player his final three seasons. More than that, he has a controversial image and may have been the Albert Belle of his day, another fine hitter who hasn’t come close to Cooperstown.

Bill James called Allen a clubhouse cancer, writing in one of his books that Allen did “more to keep his teams from winning than anybody else who ever played major league baseball.” In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001, James called Allen the second-most controversial player in baseball history behind Rogers Hornsby. Teammates and coaches have spoken out in Allen’s defense as a team leader and captain, and even if the allegations they defended were true, Allen wouldn’t be the first jerk in Cooperstown (and probably not the last.)

It’s not always fun to see these kinds of players have their day, but Allen might deserve one.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al OliverAlbert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil TravisChipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry WalkerMaury WillsMel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

17 Replies to “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Dick Allen”

  1. I’d vote for Dick Allen for The Hall. It is absurd for Bill James to claim that Allen did more to keep his teams from winning than anyone else who ever played MLB. I’m guessing that some of the lousy pitchers on those Phillies teams had much more to do with them losing than Allen’s 156 OPS+ ever did.
    Funny thing about Bill James. He insists that intelligent people use nothing but objective data to reach conclusions about the value of particular ballplayers, but he breaks that rule himself whenever he feels like it.
    Nice job, Bill

  2. “He insists that intelligent people use nothing but objective data to reach conclusions about the value of particular ballplayers…”
    Just curious … can you cite any quotation like that from any of his writings?

  3. I was at a game at old Comisky in 1972(I think) vs, KC. Rojas was playing second. Dick Allen hits this screaming liner that Rojas jumps because he thinks he can catch it. The ball misses his glove by a couple feet and goes over the fence in right center. Read Dick Allen’s book, “Crash”. The guy was a high school basketball legend also.

  4. Dick Allen was a good player for a few years. It is too bad that he, like Bobby Bonds, had that “trouble maker” label on him. I like Dick Allen as a player just as I like Don Mattingly as a player. But in my view, neither belong in the Hall Of Fame.

  5. Bill James clearly has alot of opinions that aren’t substantiated about Dick Allen and I would say a number of other players as well. In addition to his scathing comment about Allen being a clubhouse cancer which has been totally refuted by his teammates, managers, coaches; James also makes unsubstantiated comments by calling Allen “”a professed third baseman,” The truth is that Allen never played third base. He briefly played second base but was ultimately groomed to play the outfield. In order to get Allen’s bat in the line-up he put Allen at third-base, a position he never played before. Very few players, let alone rookies could stand such a switch and survive the pressures of making it in the big leagues. Allen not only made it, but had one of the greatest rookie years ever.

    Allen was an outspoken man who played at a time when sports writer were competing for headlines and would find whatever they could, regardless of whether or not it was true, to get that headline. Allen like other black players were still also playing in the days of severe racism. We saw what happened when white players like Ted Williams or Roger Maris spoke out. When black players like Allen or Clemente made their thoughts known they were even more abused and ridiculed.

    The fight with Frank Thomas was one of a number of fabricated incidents by the writers. Allen came to the defense of a black teammate who was being continually abused by Thomas. Thomas in an act of cowardice and insanity, swung his bat hard to attack Allen and hit him in the shoulder causing an injury. Ironically, not only this incident, but this injury would haunt Allen and hurt him for the rest of his career. Allen that year was on a pace where he might have won the triple crown. No easy feat in the NL of the 60’s, let alone any other time.

    Allen was an amazing player to watch. He could run like a deer, was one of the smartest base runners in the game and could hit like Mantle; for power and average. Had he been allowed to play the outfield and perhaps break in somewhere else Allen might have put up some numbers that would have in the 1960’s been like Albert Puljos’s numbers are today.

    My personal choice would be to vote him in the HOF along with Santo and Tony Oliva. Either way, he deserved a great deal more respect than he got from the Philly fans and press when he played and he deserves a great deal more consideration and respect for the HOF.

  6. @ Alvy: I agree that Philly in ’64 was probably not the best place for Allen to break in. But allowing him to play the outfield for that team would have displaced Wes Covington (BA .280), Tony Gonzalez (.278) or Johnny Callison (.274) while leaving a gaping hole at third. That position was held down the previous year by an aging Don Hoak (.231). Forcing Allen to play third might have worked to the detriment of his career, but it’s understandable why manager Gene Mauch did it. It got Allen’s bat (.318) in the lineup.
    I agree that he deserves serious HoF consideration.

  7. My thoughts on Bill James. His books are very good. Some of his “OPINIONS” are rubbish. His ranting and raving about Maury Wills(Baseball Historical Abstact) crossed the line dividing non-biased fact and outright hatred. The problem with men like Bill James is that they never really played the game but somehow think they are entitled to “label” players as they see fit.

  8. Great post Edward, thanks. Couldn’t be said better.

    Brendan. I hear you about Mauch’s decision. As an old fan and no expert, I’d have to say though that they could have compensated with Hoak’s decline by using Cookie Rojas and Ruben Amaro more often at third. Eventually they could have traded for a more well-rounded thirdbasemen by trading one or more of those 5 first basemen on their roster and some added combo perhaps including the likes of Amaro. But even without the trade, Amaro and Rojas could have played third very well. They could have put Allen at first which would have at least been a significantly less demanding position for Allen. He was no star fielder at first, but would have been more credible. The less pressure he would have had at first might have made his bat that much more effective. John Hernsteins’ bat would never have been missed.

  9. Alvy: As you suggest, first base might well have been the best place for Allen, even in ’64 and even with all those other first basemen on the Phils’ roster (what’s up with that?). Given the choice between Amaro and Rojas at third, I would go with Rojas. Not only was Cookie a better all-around player than Ruben Sr, but with Bobby Wine at shortstop, the left side of the infield would have featured – to steal Bob Costas’ line – the plays of Wine and Rojas.

  10. I saw allen play in Little Rock in the minors. He had greatness written all over him. Even with his speed and grace on thje base paths,to put him at third was a brain dead decision. The way he swung a 40 0z. bat with great power and average was superb. He had the misfortune to play when he did. Today, speaking his mind would have no effect on his HOF credentials, but would probably put him the broadcast booth ala Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders.

  11. This actually happened. I was at a July game 1 doubleheader Sox/Tigers (1972) at old Comiskey with my dad, his friend, as well as his son. This was a few weeks after the Sports Ill cover of Dick Allen juggling baseballs and smoking a cigarette in the Sox dugout. We were sitting just over the Sox dugout and my dad was not at all a fan of Dick Allen… began heckling Mr Allen each inning he would warm up to bat and then after his bat while he returned to the dugout. Being within earshot I witnessed many dirty looks and then words exchanged… and low and behold Dick Allen climbed the dugout and chased my father up 10 rows waiving his bat and screaming obscenities at him all the while the crowd roared. I will never forget this as long as I live. I only wish I could obtain old Sox TV footage of this as I have been unable to up until this point. With his reputation as it was and along with this incident I would find it hard to believe he should reach the HOF. This well before media scrutiny, ESPN etc would have certainly made headlines.

    1. That’s a bunch of BS. Never heard that story before. Dick was a friend of mine. I know and have heard all of the stories.

  12. Tom Janisse, your post is impossible to believe. 1972 is well before ESPN, but it not before a newspaper. if something like that did actually happen I am sure the league would have stepped in and more would have been done or said about it. With the controversy behind Mr. Allen, this wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. His reputation in your eyes is pretty much everything you have read about him and everything your father told you. Neither of you really know the player to speak about him. I have had the privilege to meet some teammates of Mr. Allen and from things they have told me, he was a guy that was mentally involved in the game to be bothered with what was going on in the stands. He was the captain of the team, setting examples to the younger players. Honestly even if this did happen and I am sure it did not, I really don’t feel Mr. Allen needed a bat to go after your father.

  13. NO! He doesn’t have the stats and did not conduct himself in a respectable manner.

    Allen was a million dollar talent with a ten cent head. He wasted his time focusing on and rebelling against rules he didn’t like instead of focusing on the game and his performance. He was given a gift of tremendous talent and did not maximize it because of his petulant behavior and victim mentality. Most of his problems were self inflicted by his own attitude and behavior. Other minority players encountered the same things Allen did at that time, but they all persevered and succeeded, where as Allen chose to whine and pout and opt out.

    Fred McGriff deserves to be in not Allen. McGriff had 493 HR over 2400 hit and over 1500 rbi’s. And McGriff was a gentlman who never cause a bit of trouble. To put Allen in before McGriff would be an injustice.

    1. In response to Grapost. Once again you speak about Allen as if you knew him personally. Everything you think you know was printed in the paper. To say other minority players encountered the same thing is not true. I don’t know of any other minority that dealt with what he dealt with in Little Rock Arkansas, then he goes to philadelphia and becomes the villain for basically defending himself after he was hit with a bat by his own teammate. He also wasn’t allowed to speak about it to the media or he would be fined. what other minority that played dealt with the hometown fans throwing batteries, pennies and beer bottles at him during the game? Then he dealt with off the field stuff. Persevere that like a good little boy? that is a lot to take and do it with a smile on your face. The interview with Bob Costas Allen stated he was trying to get out of Philly after all that. That may have had a lot to do with your ten cent head statement. They wouldn’t trade him. As for the numbers, you have to compare the player to the players of his era. The crime dog has VERY good numbers and he does deserve to be in the HOF, but he played in a different era. From 1964 to 1978 look who the top players were. Ron Santo and Jim Rice have similar numbers as Allen. It seems to be more of a dislike for the person than a like for the player when it comes to Allen. You should read what Goose Gossage has to say about Allen.

  14. Though immensely talented as a hitter and baserunner, Allen irritated Phillies management with his chronic lateness. He almost always arrived by game time but often missed batting practice and other pregame workouts. Manager Gene Mauch estimated that he fined Allen several thousand dollars in one season alone for his repeatedly late arrivals to the ballpark.

    By 1968, Allen’s unhappiness in Philadelphia reached a boiling point. He began to violate minor team rules intentionally as a not-so-subtle way of trying to persuade management to trade him. The following season, he made the transition to violation of major team rules. In May 1969, he didn’t arrive at the ballpark until after a game had started. The late arrival prompted a $1,000 fine from manager Bob Skinner—an astronomical amount for the time.

    Allen only compounded the problem later in the season when he forgot that the start time of a doubleheader against the Mets had been moved up. Listening to the car radio, he heard that the game had started and learned that he had just received a 28-game suspension from Skinner. This latest act of irresponsibility, along with his increased level of drinking, sealed his fate in Philadelphia. He threatened to retire if the Phillies did not trade him. The Phillies obliged, sending him to St. Louis as part of the famed trade that involved all-star outfielder and labor pioneer Curt Flood.

    Allen also expressed doubts about playing for the White Sox. Unsure that he wanted to continue his career, he failed to report to the White Sox spring training camp in Sarasota. He contemplated retirement, only to change his mind.

    Allen’s first year in Chicago transpired smoothly, culminating in his selection as MVP. Within only two years, though, he grew so unhappy that he announced his retirement before the 1974 season ended. Rather than follow the lead of most players and wait until the winter, he bolted in the middle of September.

    Another source of his problems in Chicago was a feud with new teammate Ron Santo, who was finishing his long career by playing a final season for the White Sox.

    After the 1974 season, the White Sox, who still owned the rights to Allen, traded him to the Braves. Allen refused to report to Atlanta, even preferring to play in Philadelphia over a team based in any Southern city.

    When the A’s tried to make Allen a DH, he bristled at the idea of becoming a one-dimensional player. The A’s released him, leading to his retirement—

  15. I was a Groundskeeper for the Phillies for 33 years and know Dick Allen and his entire family for well over 40 years. To put it bluntly Bill James and his worshipping disciples are the reason Dick Allen is NOT IN THE HALL OF FAME. He never spoke to Dick Allen once, and that is from the mouth of Dick Allen. In fact Allen told me he would like to meet the man and speak to him to see why he makes those ridiculous comments. What he says about Allen is 100 % false. Was Dick Allen a saint ? Of course not . However there are many players in the Hall of Fame who have some vices. His stats speak for themselves. Career 156 OPS+ ranks Dick Allen tied for 20th All Time with Willie Mays. His 165 OPS+ from 1964 to 1974 ranked him first in all of baseball ahead of 17 future Hall of Famers. Also whether those want to admit it or not but those over 500 FT Home Runs, and there were 20 of them are part of Dick Allen’s resume’. Just like a Nolan Ryan 100mph fastball which enabled him to strike out thousands of batters and throw several No Hitters, Nolan Ryan had a winning percentage just over .500 . He is often considered the most overrated player in the Hall of Fame. But he is rewarded with a plaque in Cooperstown because of his Power Pitching, yet Dick Allen in NOT REWARDED for his POWER HITTING. According to Baseball Historian Bill Jenkinson who is an expert on Home Runs and the distance they traveled and also author of the book BASEBALL’S ULTIMATE POWER , ranks Dick Allen second in All time Power/Distance Hitting behind only Babe Ruth. Jenkinson is a consultant for MLB, MLB TV, ESPN, FOX SPORTS, HBO and the NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME.

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