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WSI News - Sox Interviews

 

Dick Allen:
Another View

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

 Back to 5. Back to Philly

The Positive Side

It would be grossly unfair to stop there. Beyond the raw results of his performance, he deserves credit for being a student of the game as well as his willingness and his ability to share his knowledge. His managers appreciated his setting an example of not making excuses and being willing to play hurt. And he deserves to be praised for his competitiveness, courage, and confidence. (In my career, I have learned to never underestimate the value of anyone who brings those three C's to a team.)

And don't hesitate to give Allen a few points for being kind and likeable. It is amazing how far those qualities will go in healing the incidents where you say or do something that potentially could hurt the team. I'm sure his critics would be stunned to find how warmly he is remembered by those who shared a clubhouse with him. Most echo what Dodger coach Carol Beringer told me, I admired him.  Not just as a ballplayer, but a person." A number of those I interviewed told stories of Allen's generosity and kindness.

Dick Allen was voted an all-star all three years he played on the South Side.  General Manager Roland Hemond and Manager Chuck Tanner both credit him with saving the Sox franchise.

For all of his shortcomings, a lot of people who were actually there considered Allen a good teammate and a team player. In 1970, Gene Mauch surprised a lot of folks by publicly praising Allen and stunned them with the statement, "He's a good team man." And without any prompting, I note that both Tanner and Ozark specifically called Allen a "team player" in our interviews.

As I finished up my interview with Pat Corrales, I posed this question to him: "All of these managers felt that Allen's teammates liked him. You were there in those early years in Philly, and you tell me he was well liked as a teammate. That's all I ever hear from his old teammates. My question is, why wasn't there more resentment towards his casual approach to team rules, his chronic lateness?" This was his Pat's answer:

"I guess it's because we were ballplayers, and that's how we would judge him first. There's always going to be some guy who has trouble with the rules. Look, I played with and against him, and on the field he gave 110%. He was ready for the game, and he played it to the max. It wasn't just raw talent either. He knew how to play; he had an instinct for this game. We knew that if everyone played the way he did, there wouldn't be many losses. That's what mattered to us. If he gave it to us on the field and he was late getting to the park, that wasn't such a big deal to us."

It is time to lay some of the wilder notions to rest. When someone writes that Allen "never did anything to help his teams to win," you now know that's not true. You have heard from the men in the best position to judge that. They unanimously disagree with that notion, and the record supports them.

When someone says that once a team had Allen around awhile, they never wanted him again, you know that's not true. The Phillies took him back and won with him. And every one of these managers, even Mauch and Skinner, said they would want him again.

When someone says that Allen had a divisive presence that kept his teams from winning, you now know that's not true. You have heard it denied here by the people who would be the first to complain if it were true, and again the record supports them.

When someone writes that Dick's teams split into pro-Allen and anti-Allen factions, or that he was disliked by many of his teammates, you now know that's not true. All of these managers deny that, and most added that they saw exactly the opposite.

So why has Allen ended up being painted so harshly? In my years around the game, I have seen how easy it is for images to be built that often do not relate to reality. Consider how much easier it would be to paint a false image for a man like Allen. Writers often have referred to Dick as an "enigma," but in my interview with Gene Mauch, he referred to Allen as an "uncomplicated man." Pat Corrales said roughly the same thing, and in the time I spent with him, it was easy to see what they meant. He liked to keep things as simple as possible. He was a modest, private person who disliked being the center of attention.

Dick was not interested in being known, and he was content to present a blank canvas to the media and fans and to let us paint on it what we would. For the most part, with the dips and turns in Allen's career, we took that opportunity to paint our archetype of the trouble maker, the disruptive player. I suspect that if Allen had started off with another team, in another city, or just in a later time, our attitudes toward him, and our perceptions of him would be entirely different. And even then, we would need now to ask if we were really seeing him or simply what we wanted to see.

By virtue of his not wanting to be known, the "uncomplicated man" remains an "enigma" for baseball fans, writers, and historians. If you think you know Dick Allen, look again.   


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