Dick Allen was one of baseball's most feared sluggers during the 1960s and 1970s. Once he became a full-time regular during the 1964 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, he would go on a decade of dominance where he established himself as one of the game's most terrifying figures in the batter's box. Allen, who was viewed negatively by his contemporary media members, has an opportunity to assume his rightful place in Cooperstown this weekend, albeit posthumously.
Allen's larger-than-life persona was one that lent itself to being misunderstood during his day. But as time has passed since his playing days, many came to understand the man better than they did when he was swinging his famed 40-ounce bat. If Allen is to be enshrined in the hall of the immortals in upstate New York, it will be an honor that is long overdue.
From 1964 through the 1974 season, perhaps no hitter was more dominant in the game of baseball than Dick Allen, all things considered. Whether it was for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, or our Chicago White Sox, Allen struck fear in the hearts of pitchers every time he stepped into the box. During this 10-year run of dominance, Allen was fourth in all of baseball with 59.2 fWAR. He also produced a .299/.386/.554 slash line with 319 home runs and 975 RBIs. In an era dominated by pitching, Allen stood above his peers as an imposing figure in the middle of the lineup.
During that span, Allen tied the late, great Hank Aaron with 10 seasons of 20-plus home runs and an OPS of .850 or higher. Any time you are tied with Hank Aaron in an offensive statistic, you are doing something right. If you take it a step further, Allen was first in all of baseball with a 163 wRC+ during this magical run. You read that right, no hitter in baseball for a 10-year period was more impactful, all things considered, than Dick Allen. Yet, somehow this man has been overlooked when it comes to his Hall of Fame candidacy.
The various Hall of Fame committees and voters frequently talk about an extended run of dominance when looking at a player's candidacy. Despite not having the traditional counting stats (hits, home runs, RBIs) in line with many already enshrined in Cooperstown, Allen's dominance during his era simply cannot be denied.
There are certainly examples of players with visible peaks above their contemporaries earning enshrinement despite not having the longevity or counting stats that would seemingly be prerequisites. Taking into account the numbers cited above, I cannot for the life of me understand how voters did not give Dick Allen his due while he was still living.
Saving The South Side
Allen's arrival at 35th/Shields prior to the 1972 season was a watershed moment for the White Sox franchise. In many aspects, it was also a saving one. The team's attendance was floundering as they were rumored to be on the move to Milwaukee, almost potentially being sold to a group fronted by former MLB commissioner, Bud Selig. The team drew a meager 500,000 fans during a dreadful 1970 season that saw them lose 106 games, and the whispers of relocation grew louder by the day.
Allen's arrival helped to reinvigorate a fan base that needed a breath of life. When he got to 35th/Shields, he made an immediate impact. Allen earned 1972 MVP honors after slugging 37 home runs and slashing a gaudy .308/.420/.603 for a White Sox team that pushed the Oakland A's but ultimately fell short of winning the AL West.
In the forthcoming book, "Chili Dog MVP", there are tremendous details surrounding Allen's arrival on the South Side and how he helped to change a culture surrounding the American League charter franchise. Authors John Owens, Dr. David Fletcher (who happens to be a customer of mine during my day job), and George Castle have tremendous first-hand accounts of teammates that go into great detail about Allen's clubhouse presence. Additionally, the authors share significant details surrounding the misinterpretations of Allen's personality, which was often viewed as combative and surly at the time.
The book is a tremendous read for any White Sox fan that wants to take a trip down memory lane and get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important figures in franchise history. One of the overarching themes the book delves into is the fact that had Allen not come to the Sox before the 1972 season, we may not have our team today. In a lot of ways, Allen deserves credit for keeping the Sox from leaving the South Side.
Despite having a short stay with the Sox, Allen's impact cannot be understated. His 1972 MVP campaign was the culmination of a career that was often overshadowed and not appreciated for its greatness. If Allen gets the posthumous call to the hall this weekend, it will right a wrong that should've been addressed while the man was still alive.
There is simply no overstating that Dick Allen was one of the greatest offensive forces of his era. Finally getting a plaque in Cooperstown will go a long way toward recognizing what cannot and should not have been denied for so long. He had several stops throughout his career, but Allen himself said that the South Side of Chicago was the first place that truly appreciated him for who he was.
I know there will be a lot of happy White Sox fans that would be willing to make the trip to upstate New York and sport the old red 1970s era Sox hat in support of a player that captured the hearts of many within the fan base.