Dick Allen, a Philadelphia icon, dies at 78

Phillies slugger Dick Allen
Dick Allen, a seven-time All-Star and one of the most feared hitters of his generation, passed away on Monday in his hometown of Wampum, PA. He was 78. 

Allen spent nine seasons of his 15-year career in Philadelphia, breaking in as a rookie in 1964 when he won Rookie of the Year honors as a third baseman. His tape-measure blasts were a common occurrence, often landing far beyond the Coca-Cola sign at Connie Mack Stadium. He quickly rose to prominence as one of Philadelphia's first Black superstar athletes, yet he dealt with brutality and racism regularly, specifically from teammates, fans, and writers. 

In July of 1965, Allen got into an altercation with teammate Frank Thomas outside the batting cage at Connie Mack Stadium during a pregame workout. The scuffle ended with Thomas swinging his bat and hitting Allen in the shoulder before the two separated. Thomas, a fan-favorite, was placed on waivers later that night. Scribes pieced together the story over the ensuing days painting Allen as an agitator. With the race riots of 1964 as a backdrop, the primarily white fanbase turned on Allen. 

"Dick was a sensitive Black man who refused to be treated as a second-class citizen," said teammate and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt this past summer. "He played in front of home fans that were products of that racist era [with] racist teammates and different rules for whites and Blacks. Fans threw stuff at him, and thus Dick wore a batting helmet throughout the whole game. They yelled degrading racial slurs. They dumped trash in his front yard at his home. In general, he was tormented, and it came from all directions. And Dick rebelled."

Allen's No. 15 was retired by the Phillies this past summer. He never received more than 18.9 percent of the necessary 75 percent for election to the Hall by baseball writers, falling off the ballot in 1997. He was under review this year by the Hall of Fame's Golden Era committee, but the group postponed their vote until next year due to COVID-19. 

In an 11-year period, from 1964 to 1974, Allen averaged 29 homers and 89 RBIs while hitting .299 with a .940 OPS. 

In 1,070 games with the Phillies, he batted .290 with 204 doubles, 64 triples, 204 home runs, 655 RBI, 517 walks, and a .902 OPS. He ranks second all-time in Phillies history with a .530 slugging percentage and 10th in home runs. 

“We are heartbroken over the passing of our dear friend and co-worker,” the Phillies said in a statement. “Dick will be remembered as not just one of greatest and most popular players in our franchise’s history, but also as a courageous warrior who had to overcome far too many obstacles to reach the level he did. His iconic status will resonate for generations of baseball fans to come as one of the all-time greats to play America’s pastime.”  
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BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor

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