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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Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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