ON MAY 13, 1975, an intimate crowd of 11,634 fans gathered in Veterans Stadium to watch Phillies lefthander Tommy Underwood shut out the Reds, 4-0.
The next night, a Wednesday, 30,908 turned out to watch Steve Carlton blank Cincinnati by the same score.
So what happened to put an extra 19,274 fannies in the seats? Was Lefty that big of a draw?
Apparently not. In Carlton's previous home start, April 30 against Montreal ace Steve Rogers, the crowd was 8,750.
The spike, of course, was the same reason the moribund Sixers sold out the building Monday night - and probably could have sold it out twice.
Allen I, Dick, was the reason for the big 1975 walk-up mob. Just as Allen II, Iverson, was the magnet for the Wachovia Center sellout.
Allen played first base, batted fifth between Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt and was accorded a standing ovation when he stepped into the batter's box in a Phillies uniform for the first time since the final game of the 1969 season. He did not kiss home plate. The Bull had driven in a run to give Carlton the only run he would need. Allen lined a two-out single to center, prompting another standing O.
It was his first at-bat since the previous Sept. 8. Despite leading the American League with 32 homers, Allen was unhappy. The leg he had broken in a 1973 collision was acting up and, according to his biography "Crash," he had been feuding with over-the-hill White Sox teammate Ron Santo, a world-class needler. So on Sept. 14, he left the team, just walked out on Chuck Tanner, the manager whose patient approach to No. 15 led to an AL MVP award and three straight All-Star Game appearances.
I have been asked by a number of fans if the returns of the two Allens 34 years apart are deja vu all over again.
The easy answer is yes and no.
Yes, because Dick Allen and Allen Iverson not only are two of the most gifted athletes in Philadelphia history, but they rank No. 1 and 2 as lightning rods for controversy. Make Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain and Eric Lindros a distant 3, 4 and 5. Bill James, the baseball stat maven who sometimes strays into behavior analysis, once called Allen the No. 2 most controversial ballplayer in history behind Rogers Hornsby. His stinging comment: "[Allen] did more to keep his teams from winning than anybody else who ever played major league baseball." James apparently missed 1964, when Allen's epic rookie season helped propel the Phillies to that unblowable lead in one of the strongest National Leagues of all time. During the final 12 games, when the 6 1/2-game lead vanished, Allen batted .429 with 11 RBI.
But no, because the circumstances driving the returns of the prodigal sons were totally different.
Unlike the floundering Sixers - a bad young team - the 1975 Phillies were about to embark on a 9-year run that would see them win two pennants, five division titles and their first World Series crown. And despite the limbo he entered when he walked on the White Sox, Allen didn't come for the pittance Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski is shelling out to rent Iverson - a prorated non-guaranteed, 1-year contract for the NBA minimum of $1.3 million for players with 10 years experience. In the NBA, that's chump change.
After the 1974 season, the exasperated White Sox sold Allen to the Atlanta Braves for $5,000 and a player to be named. Allen said he had no intention to play for the Braves and announced his retirement.
Phillies GM Paul Owens was looking for a righthanded power bat to firm up an already-potent lineup and needed a first baseman with more pop than slick-fielding Tommy Hutton, a lefthanded contact hitter. The Pope always liked Allen. In fact, No. 15 gave Owens his nickname. And he was being lobbied to deal for Allen by Mike Schmidt and Dave Cash. Negotiations were not easy. Allen had to be persuaded by several of his future teammates that both the organizational and racial climate here had changed for the better since his stormy 1969 exit and the cosmic repercussions of Curt Flood taking baseball's reserve clause to court rather than playing here.
The Braves demanded a top prospect from the loaded Phillies' system, plus a player the White Sox would take to complete the Allen deal. The return of Richard Anthony Allen to the organization that had signed him out of Wampum High School for a $60,000 bonus cost Owens outfielder Barry Bonnell, the Phils' No. 1 pick in the special-phase January draft of previously drafted but unsigned amateur players. The player handed off by the Braves to the White Sox was hard-nosed backup catcher Jim Essian, who later was the coach who replaced manager Don Zimmer after he was fired by the Cubs in 1991. Owens pried backup catcher Johnny Oates from the Braves, but it cost him $150,000 in cash. Bonnell and Essian played a total of 22 big-league seasons.
At age 33, Allen was what they call a "shot fighter" around boxing. He wound up hitting a career-low .233 in 119 games with 12 homers. He played in just 85 games in 1976 when the Phils won their first NL East title, but banged 15 homers and hit .268. But he landed in Danny Ozark's doghouse. Later, he briefly left the club without permission after the Phils clinched the division in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader in Montreal to protest his friend Tony Taylor being left off the postseason roster.
Allen flew home to Philly while his teammates formally celebrated their title in St. Louis that night. His absence was noticed and unappreciated. Dick declared free agency and spent an unhappy final season in Oakland.
Maybe you really can't go home again. Seven years had flown by since Allen last went to spring training in Clearwater - Crash didn't like practice, either. The owners had locked their players out of 1976 spring training and the Phillies were holding informal workouts at Dunedin's Grant Field. Dick arrived in Clearwater and, just as he had done every other spring, strode into the lobby of the Ft. Harrison Hotel, ready to check in. He was stopped by a guard toting a shotgun. "Isn't this the headquarters of the Philadelphia Phillies?" Dick asked.
"No," the security guard replied, "It's the Eastern headquarters of the Church of Scientology."
Who knew? *
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