Philadelphia is one of the most renowned sports cities in all of America. The city has gained a reputation for its loyal (even rabid) fanbase, invested in its teams and players not only with economic support but with all the emotional fervor they can muster. Love it or hate it, with religious devotion, we take our sports seriously.
Some of the most iconic and beloved athletes of all time, such as Wilt Chamberlain, Chuck Bednarik, Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, Bobby Clarke, and so many more, have all represented the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection in their respective sports at the highest level.
Outside of Citizens Bank Park, the city’s rich baseball history is on display. The most visible recognition comes in the form of statues for revered players: Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Mike Schmidt, and Steve Carlton. There is one glaring omission in that inner circle: the late Richard Anthony “Dick” Allen.
Dick Allen was a ferocious hitter during his 15-year tenure in the MLB, most notably with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies retired his number in late September, before his death on Dec. 7. But they can do more to acknowledge his stature in the sport and the city.
Swinging a 42-ounce bat, Allen won the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year Award with one of the greatest rookie campaigns ever. He led the league in runs (125), triples (13), extra-base hits (80), and total bases (352). He finished in the top five in batting average (.318), slugging average (.557), hits (201), and doubles (38), setting numerous Phillies rookie records.
But tape measure home runs could not shield him from the onslaught of racism. Allen, who preferred to be called Dick, was nicknamed “Crash” for wearing his batting helmet at all times — to protect himself from projectiles that spectators hurled at him. Fans yelled racial epithets, dumped trash on his lawn, and even harassed his children at school. Even his teammates called him “Richie,” which he didn’t like, and that disfavored name landed on his Topps baseball card, too.
An enigmatic personality, Allen refused to just suck it up and play, which was the expectation forced onto Jackie Robinson. Allen played during the civil rights and Black Power movements and was not afraid of the white baseball establishment. He fought with his teammate Frank Thomas and the front office (he would eventually demand a trade), and these controversies made it easy for the city to define him as a troublemaker.
After leaving the Phillies in 1969, Allen proved that he was still an elite player in the game. With the Chicago White Sox, he won the American League MVP in 1972. In a full-circle moment, Allen returned to the Phillies for his final two seasons, where he became a fan favorite.
Allen was his own man, never bowing down to anyone. Some would say that his behavior, such as showing up late to the park, having a pregame brew, and not always being a model teammate, helped to diminish his legacy, making him arguably the greatest player not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Phillies don’t have a say if Dick Allen will ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. That’s left up to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America whether to bestow on the late Allen the ultimate prize of “America’s National Pastime.” But the Phillies should immortalize Allen posthumously with a statue among other elites outside the ballpark, honoring his legacy as the team’s first Black baseball star — and as a broader cultural icon. This would speak volumes about the legacy of a man who endured some of the ugliest displays of racial hatred toward a Black athlete in the history of the city.
Statues and their placement tell stories. They tell stories about the horrors of the past and the possibilities for the future. Dick Allen deserves a big one for his prowess on the field, and for being a trailblazer during his time as a Phillie. Hopefully, it won’t take as long as it took for the Phillies to finally retire his number 15.
Rashad Grove is a journalist, media personality, and pastor of First Baptist Church in Wayne. @thegroveness