Dick Allen was already soured by the Baseball Hall of Fame process when a former Negro leagues player spotted him at the 1993 All-Star Game and pulled him aside.
“It was ‘Double Duty’ Radcliffe and he said, ‘Hey hey hey’ and they were talking and laughing,” said Allen’s son, Richard Jr. “And he said, ‘You could have played with us.’ Months later, my father said to me, ‘That’s all I needed to hear. That was it for me. I’m good as far as the Hall of Fame.’”
Entering the Hall of Fame proved elusive for Allen, who died last December, and his son said the former Phillies slugger had come to terms with not having a bronze plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y. But that doesn’t mean his family and supporters are not holding out hope that Allen’s fortune will change Sunday.
He is one of 10 players to be considered by the Hall’s 16-member Golden Days Era Committee. Allen needs 12 votes to enter the Hall and fell one vote shy in 2014, when the committee last met.
Mike Schmidt, who said last year that Allen belongs in Cooperstown and would push his cause, will be in the room Sunday in Orlando as one of the 16 voters, perhaps providing the push Allen needs.
“I just keep getting flashbacks to 2014,” said Allen’s son. “I don’t believe it will come down to one vote again. I think they’ll do something to prevent that because they took a lot of stuff from people for that one vote. That was a bad look. ... You never know. I feel a little more confident this time but not overly confident. There’s been a big push since 2014.”
Chester’s Danny Murtaugh, who managed the Pirates to a pair of World Series crowns 11 years apart, is also on the ballot. Murtaugh died in 1976 and played nine seasons in the majors. He started his big-league career with the Phillies in 1941, five years after graduating from Chester High. He was the manager for the Pirates in 1960 when they won the World Series with Bill Mazeroski’s home run over the Yankees and in 1971 when they won it all a month after playing the Phillies with baseball’s first lineup featuring all Black and Latino players.
“Those guys turned out to be the Lumber Company,” Allen told Time in 2007 of the lineup that included Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Dave Cash, Al Oliver and Manny Sanguillen. “They put some wood on your (butt). They put more wood on your (butt) than Howdy Doody had. Won them a World Series that year, too, am I not correct?”
Allen, armed with a 42-ounce bat, was one of the premier hitters of his generation -- his 165 OPS+ from 1964 to 1973 led the majors, better than such all-time greats as Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, and Willie McCovey. Allen’s 155 WRC+, meaning his offensive production was 55% better than league average, ranks 18th all-time and is just below that of Mel Ott and just above Willie Mays.
He was the rookie of the year in 1964 for the star-crossed Phillies, won the American League MVP in 1972 with the White Sox, and was a seven-time All-Star. But his Hall of Fame case fell flat in 1983 — his first year of eligibility — when just 3.7% of the writers voted for him. Allen was on the ballot for 14 years and never received close to the 75% needed for enshrinement.
Allen did not get along with some baseball writers during his career and his case for Cooperstown was often derided by claims that he was a distraction to his teams. There was the time he suffered a hand injury when pushing his car, the twi-night doubleheader he missed after spending time at the horse track, the batting-cage fight with teammate Frank Thomas, and the time he threatened to miss the postseason if the Phillies didn’t add Tony Taylor to the roster.
But what Allen overcame — a minor-league season of racial taunts in Arkansas, followed by being one of the first African American Phillies during the racially charged 1960s, and playing the field with a batting helmet for protection from projectiles — could have been valued just as much by the writers.
Players such as Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Jim Bunning, and Larry Christenson defended Allen as a good teammate. Bowa said that Allen — who was recruited by Schmidt in 1975 to rejoin the Phillies — “got us going in the right direction” en route to the franchise’s first world title.
His son said Allen had grown tired of trying to convince people that he wasn’t the person they read about.
“For the past how many years, it was me trying to explain, ‘Hey, he’s not like that. He really isn’t,’” Allen said. “But he looked at it like, ‘You’re just going to keep explaining.’ So he never bothered to explain himself because he thought they would just take a different angle, so, ‘You know what, we agree to disagree.’”
Allen recently watched a replay of the 1974 All-Star Game and heard the broadcaster note that his father had arrived late that night to Three Rivers Stadium. But what they didn’t say, his son said, is what caused his father’s tardiness.
“I’ll never forget it,” Allen said. “I’m in the back seat, my Uncle Sonny is driving and my father is in the passenger side. We’re underneath the stadium and my uncle is going back and forth with a police office who wouldn’t move his barrier. ‘I have Dick Allen in the car here and he has to get in here.’ This guy wouldn’t move the thing. My Uncle Sonny got out, popped the trunk, took his bat bag, and said, ‘You can go play for him.’
“That’s the kind of rap he gets.”
The Phillies retired Allen’s No. 15 in September in an event that seemed to be a way to build momentum for Allen before the committee voted again. But Allen said afterward that he already considered himself a Hall of Famer because the Negro League Museum honored him in 2018.
“That’s the real hall for me,” Allen said. “They are a very elite group. They’re part of the legends. And to me, the way that it’s going, it could be a little political the way [the Baseball Hall of Fame] does things, but however, it’s beyond me. I pay no attention to it.”
The younger Allen called his father from San Diego in 2014 to tell him he fell one vote shy. It was another disappointment.
“Growing up, we always talked in sports lingo and you know he loved horses. I told him you missed it by a whisker,” Allen said. “He laughed and said, ‘Oh well. You can call the dogs off. It’s all over.’”
When it was announced last year that Allen would have another crack at Cooperstown, he lamented to his son that he wouldn’t have a peaceful summer. Allen had accepted his standing and enjoyed the privacy that he imagined would be encroached by becoming a Hall of Famer.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the committee to delay last year’s vote and Allen died on the day the results were originally scheduled to be announced.
His son will be in Orlando on Sunday when the votes are cast. He’s feeling confident again. And if his father becomes a Hall of Famer, could his son imagine what that phone call would have been like if he were still alive?
“You’re going to get me choked up,” Allen said. “I’ll be talking to him.
“To be honest, I think he would be honored.”