Former Phillies star Dick Allen, fearsome hitter and 7-time All-Star, dies at 78

ROB MAADDI
The Associated Press
FILE - Former Philadelphia Phillies' Dick Allen waves to the crowd before a baseball game against the New York Mets in Philadelphia, in this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, file photo. Dick Allen, a fearsome hitter who was a seven-time All-Star, the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year and the 1972 AL MVP, has died. He was 78. The Philadelphia Phillies, the team Allen started out with, announced his death on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

Dick Allen, a fearsome hitter who was a seven-time All-Star, the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year and the 1972 AL MVP, has died. He was 78.

The Philadelphia Phillies, the team Allen started out with, announced his death on Monday.

Allen’s No. 15 was retired by the Phillies in September, an honor that was considered long overdue by many for one of the franchise’s greatest players who fought against racism during a tumultuous period with the team in the 1960s.

“The Phillies are heartbroken over the passing today of our dear friend and co-worker, Dick Allen,” the club said.

“Dick will be remembered as not just one of the 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. Dick’s iconic status will resonate for generations of baseball fans to come as one of the all-time greats to play America’s pastime,” the Phillies said.

Phillies managing partner John Middleton broke from the team’s longstanding “unwritten” policy of only retiring the number of players who are in the Hall of Fame to honor Allen.

In 2014, he fell one vote short of Cooperstown in a Hall committee election.

“I thank the city of Philadelphia. Even though it was rough, I’ve made some friends along the way,” Allen said in an emotional ceremony on a warm, sunny afternoon.

Schmidt was an admirer: Mike Schmidt, a Hall of Fame third baseman who helped lure Allen out of retirement to return to Philadelphia for a second stint with the team in 1975, was among the former players who attended the ceremony. They wore masks and sat several feet apart during the coronavirus pandemic that shortened the major league season to 60 games. The Phillies planned to honor Allen again in 2021 with fans in attendance.

Schmidt called Allen “an amazing mentor” who was wrongly labeled a “bad teammate” and “troublemaker.”

“Dick was a sensitive Black man who refused to be treated as a second-class citizen,” Schmidt said in a speech. “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.”

Schmidt pointed out Allen didn’t have a negative reputation playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. He also campaigned for Allen’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

“My friends, these (negative) labels have kept Dick Allen out of the Hall of Fame,” Schmidt said. “Imagine what Dick could’ve accomplished as a player in another era, on another team, left alone to hone his skills, to be confident, to come to the ballpark every day and just play baseball.”

A Middleton favorite: Allen was Middleton’s favorite player as a kid. He called the abuse Allen received “horrific” and pointed out his accomplishments are even greater considering the racism he endured.

Allen batted .292 with 351 homers, 1,119 RBIs and .912 OPS in 15 seasons. He played first base, third base and left field.

After seven seasons in Philadelphia, where he rose to prominence by hammering balls over the Coca-Cola sign and out of Connie Mack Stadium in batting practice, Allen played a season with the Cardinals and Dodgers.

In 1972, he joined the Chicago White Sox and was the AL MVP. He finished his 15-year career with Oakland in 1977.

Allen had the fifth-most home runs (319) over an 11-year span (1964-74) behind four Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron (391), Harmon Killebrew (336), Willie Stargell (335) and Willie McCovey (327). His .940 OPS during that time was second to Aaron’s .941.

Falling short of Hall of Fame: Allen wasn’t elected into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and he fell one vote short in Golden Era Committee voting in 2014. The Golden Days Committee and the Early Days Committee did not vote this year because of COVID-19 and instead will meet during the winter of 2021.

“He is now reunited with his beloved daughter, Terri. The Phillies extend their condolences to Dick’s widow, Willa, his family, friends and all his fans from coast to coast,” the Phillies said.