Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Dad's encounter with Dick Allen

Former Major League Baseball player Dick Allen died Monday at age 78. He began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1963 and, as a Black superstar in the stormy decade of civil rights, had seven sometimes tumultous seasons in the City of Brotherly Love. He then returned to Philadelphia as an aging slugger in 1975 and 1976. 

Dad says he and Allen once sat side-by-side in the back of a Lockheed L-1011 going from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. It would have been 1980 or 1981. 

They had a few drinks and Dad "tried to talk about everything but baseball." Allen had a lifelong love of horses and owned a horse ranch, which was one topic of discussion. 

"Great player. Great person," Dad says.

Despite having the necessary credentials, Dick Allen is still not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 

Andrew B. Distler wrote a great piece about Allen for The Undefeated in September. An excerpt:
"Allen is among the most famous of the 'second wave' of Black MLB players who became stars in the 1960s and ’70s. These players came of age watching Black stars such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Some, including Allen, had grown up in integrated towns. Yet they were expected to abide by a double standard. Though the league was integrated, Black players were expected to be quiet, humble and grateful that they were allowed to play professional baseball. ...

"Allen was anything but quiet. He spent his career defiantly rejecting the role of 'grateful Black player.' He demanded a higher salary to match his immense talent and didn’t bother to cozy up to sportswriters. He famously fought with a white teammate who had hurled a racial slur — and ended up being blamed for the altercation himself, enduring death threats in the aftermath.

"While Allen’s statistics match those of many white players in the Hall, his reputation as a troublemaker — the stereotypical 'angry Black man' — derailed his chances."

If Allen eventually is enshrined in Cooperstown, it's a terrible shame that it will have happened after he could have attended the event.

Allen's No. 15 was retired by the Phillies in September.

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