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WSI News - Sox Interviews

 

Dick Allen:
Another View

By Craig R. Wright
as originally published by SABR magazine.
  

 Back to 2. Philadelphia Years

The St. Louis Year

In our interview, Manager Red Schoendienst remembered Dick this way:

"He did a real fine job for me. He had a great year, led our team in RBIs, and he never gave me any trouble. ... I planned on using him at first base, but with [Mike] Shannon's illness, I had to use him some at third base, and I played him a few games in the outfield, too. He was good about that."

When asked if Allen was a divisive presence among his teammates, Red said, "Absolutely not. He was great in our clubhouse. He got along with everybody. He wasn't a rah-rah guy, but he came to play. They respected him, and they liked him."

Allen played a good portion of the year with an Achilles tendon injury that was aggravated by the Cardinals' new artificial turf, and then in August he tore a hamstring while sliding into second base. Despite being limited to 122 games, Allen not only led the team in RBIs, but hit 34 homers, which is a remarkable feat in Busch Stadium.

Dick Allen poses with that telephone pole he used to win the 1972 A.L. Most Valuable Player award.

The lineup was hampered by Mike Shannon's career ending kidney ailment and by the presence of two young rookies who struggled in their first year replacing McCarver and Flood. (Leron Lee, Ted Simmons, and Shannon combined to hit .230 in 722 ABs.) Yet the Cardinals scored a lot more runs (+149), and Allen was the biggest reason why.

The team did slip in the standings but it was primarily a pitching problem. After leading the league in ERA in 1969 (2.94), the staff ERA exploded to over four (4.06 ERA). Maybe having Joe Torre and Allen at 3rd base for over 100 games took a toll, but really it was primarily a lack of control that was their downfall. The staff walked 121 more batters than the year before.

Allen told me in 1982 that he had been very happy in St. Louis, that he wished he could have played the rest of his career there. He was very disappointed to be traded at the end of the year. Schoendienst recalls that the trade took place strictly for baseball reasons. "I was happy with Allen. [Julian] Javier was on his way out, and I guess the front office figured we needed a second baseman more than a first baseman."

That seems logical looking back at the situation. Javier would be 34 and was coming off a poor year with the bat. If one assumes that they felt their young catcher Ted Simmons would be a star (indeed, he hit .304 playing full-time the next year), that left them with three first base talents in Dick Allen, Joe Torre, and Joe Hague (who was only 26 and had just hit .271 and slugged .417 in 451 ABs as an outfielder/1st baseman).

The Dodgers were loaded at 2nd base with young Ted Sizemore, veteran Jim Lefebvre, and a young Davey Lopes converting to second base in the minors. At that time, Ted Sizemore was a highly prized player. He earned the 1969 Rookie of the Year Award by hitting .271 and playing good defense. Rather than running into a sophomore slump, Sizemore followed that up by hitting .306, and that is the point in his career when this trade took place. Sizemore was also only 25, over three years younger than Allen. On October 7th, the Cardinals traded Allen for Sizemore.

The Los Angeles Year

This team did not look like a contender early in the year. They had finished 14 1/2 games back the year before, and almost immediately they lost one of their best players. The year before, 25-year-old Billy Grabarkewitz led the team with 17 HRs and was 2nd in RBIs. But early in 1971 he broke his ankle, and had only 71 ABs for the year.

Rookie Steve Garvey was brought in to play 3rd base, but he hit only .227 and broke his hand. LA had Wes Parker on first base and had acquired Allen to play in the outfield, but with their Bermuda triangle at 3rd base, Allen ended up appearing in more games at third (67) than he did in the outfield (60) or at 1st base (28).

Despite the injuries, the team improved their record and found themselves in a fierce pennant race. In September, Walter Alston was quoted as saying, "If we win this year, I'll be more proud of this team than any I've ever managed." They just missed, finishing one game behind San Francisco.

Allen was a huge part of their success, playing 155 games and hitting a strong .295. This was back when the fences were deeper in Dodger Stadium, and Dick's 23 homers were nearly double those of anyone else on the team (Lefebvre had 12). Dick's 90 RBIs led the team by a margin of 16, and in runs scored he was only 2 behind Willie Davis.

Danny Ozark, the Dodgers' third base coach remembers:

"[Allen] did a great job for us in LA. He was a great base runner, the best I ever coached. I'd take the extra base with him, and I don't think he was ever thrown out the whole year."

When I asked Ozark how Allen and manager Walt Alston got along, he said: "Walt was a quiet guy. He didn't talk a lot to the players. If he didn't say anything, you assumed it was all right. He never said anything bad about Allen, not that I know of."

When I read that quote to fellow coach Carol Beringer, he laughed and said, "That's exactly how he [Alston] was," and added:

"I don't remember any problems with Richie. I do remember one thing that may have hurt Allen with the Dodgers. LA was very big on `image.' They cultivated that with the fans and the community. They demanded that the players make [public] appearances -- well, not demanded, but it was very much expected of you. I can remember being in Alston's office when Walter O'Malley called and wanted Richie to show up for some appearance. Alston told him that he would ask Richie, but he could tell him right now that he would say `no.' Well, Richie did say `no.' He just didn't do those things, you know, and I remember Alston saying that would hurt Allen's chances to stay on the club. O'Malley didn't ask for a lot, but he expected to get it.

When the Dodgers traded Allen for Tommy John and a minor shortstop prospect Steve Huntz, they replaced Dick with an aging Frank Robinson. Ozark suggested it may have been done because the Dodgers were committed to Wes Parker at first base and Robinson was a true outfielder, which Allen was not. Whatever the reason, the trade did not work out for the Dodgers. John had a good year (11-5, 2.89 ERA), but Frank didn't come close to filling Allen's shoes. Without Dick, the team scored 79 fewer runs, and even though their improved staff led the league in ERA, they won 4 fewer games and finished 10 1/2 games back.

Continue to 4. White Sox Years


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