By Ken Reed

Allen Barra recently built a compelling case that Dick Allen should be in the Hall of Fame. Allen, known for a good part of his career as Richie Allen, was one of the dominant hitters of his era. In fact, for the 10 seasons from 1964-1973, a strong case can be made that he was the best hitter in baseball.

Consider the popular baseball statistic OPS+ (adjusted on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), the favorite analytic of sabermetricians. For the time span just mentioned, Allen ranked number one. Here’s the list:

Dick Allen: 165
Henry Aaron: 161
Willie McCovey: 161
Frank Robinson: 161
Harmon Killebrew: 152
Willie Stargell: 152
Roberto Clemente: 151
Willie Mays: 148
Frank Howard: 147
Carl Yastrzemski: 145
Al Kaline: 140

That list represents some of the best hitters in baseball history and Allen sits on top. The only name on the list not in the Hall of Fame is Dick Allen.

So, what gives? Why isn’t Allen in the Hall of Fame?

The answer is Allen’s controversial persona, political statements and sometimes rebellious actions.

Allen refused to play the “good boy” role that many pro sports franchise owners, administrators, coaches and manager wanted from African-American athletes during the turbulent 60’s and 70’s.

In many ways, he stood up to racism and social and economic injustices in a similar fashion as Muhammad Ali, who recently passed away. Ali is revered today. Allen certainly isn’t. But his life and times deserve reexamination.

“[Allen] was the first black man, and indeed the only contemporary man of any color, to assert himself in baseball with something like the unaccommodating force of Muhammad Ali in boxing, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in basketball, and Jim Brown in football,” wrote former Sports Illustrated writer Roy Blount, Jr.

Allen has long been thought to have been despised by the managers he played for. That’s not the case, as this quote from Gene Mauch, his long-time manager with the Philadelphia Phillies illustrates:

“If I was managing … and Allen was in his prime, I’d take him in a minute,” said Mauch. “He wasn’t doing anything to hurt [his teammates’] play of the game, and he didn’t involve his teammates in his problems.”

In an article entitled, “Dick Allen: Another View,” baseball scout and author Craig Wright takes another look at some of the controversies surrounding Allen. It’s worth a read in order to get a clearer picture of Allen the player and man.

There are many controversial baseball players in the Hall of Fame (Ty Cobb for starters) and many other former athletes in other sports who upon reflection are viewed more favorably today than they were during their times as active athletes (including Ali).

Dick Allen deserves another look from the perspective of today’s sensibilities.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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