Career w/Phillies: .290 AVG / 204 HR / 655 RBI / 86 SB
Despite the controversy, and despite the casualties, Dick Allen was indisputably one of the best athletes to have ever competed in the sport.
The Phillies signed Allen as an amateur free agent in 1960, and he went through the minors, but with some bumps. In Little Rock, parades were held in protest of Allen playing there. He still dominated. In 1963 he had a cup of coffee with the Phillies, and while fans knew Allen could hit, nobody was prepared for his rookie 1964.
That 1964 season was special for multiple reasons, but Allen might have been the greatest saving grace. Check out these numbers: .318 AVG / 38 2B / 13 3B / 29 HR / 91 RBI / 125 R. Allen paced the ’64 Phils to that second-place finish, and set himself up for a great long career in Phlly.
But it wouldn’t be that long. Sadly, a fight with Frank Thomas in 1965 turned in Allen’s face despite allegations that he wasn’t the initiator. Meanwhile, fans threw garbage onto the field and yelled racial epithets at him. He didn’t make things any easier, being a somewhat guarded and misunderstood individual. The recipe for disaster was set pretty early.
Still, Allen could hit. His swing was massive and yielded some of the longest home runs ever seen in baseball. He hit 20 homers in 1965, then a career-high 40 in 1966. That season he also drove in 110 while hitting .317. He then hit 23, 33 and 32 homers, respectively, between 1967 and ’69. He stole a career-high 20 bases in ’67, too. He was regularly among league leaders in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored.
Allen finally demanded to be traded from Philadelphia, and in 1970 the Phils sent him to Saint Louis for Curt Flood. But Flood — a black player with much the same reservations as Allen — didn’t want to come to Philly. Of course, that set free agency into motion.
After some solid years in Saint Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago (winning an MVP for the White Sox in 1972), Allen returned to the Phillies in 1975 and ’76, hitting another 27 home runs while contributing to a division-winning team. He retired in 1977; since retiring, his teammates and coaches have revealed that Allen was in no way the negative player many considered him to be. On the contrary: Most players looked at Allen as a leader and mentor.
Allen is a borderline Hall of Famer who hasn’t found enshrinement. The debate rages today.
Comment: Whether Allen is a Hall of Famer makes no difference; as a Phillie, Allen was fantastic. He was an incredible hitter with outrageous power and athleticism. His rookie season alone could put him on this list. And seeing as Allen hit during the pitchers’ era, there’s no doubt he was an all-time great. A top 10 player for sure.