PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — A Philadelphia Phillies legend has died. Dick Allen passed away Monday at his home in Wampum, Pennsylvania.
He was 78. No cause of death was given.
With sadness in our hearts, we need to share that Dick passed away this afternoon at his home in Wampum pic.twitter.com/BEIrcQlfRG
— Dick Allen (@DickAllen_15) December 7, 2020
The Phillies said in a statement that Allen will be remembered as a “courageous warrior.”
“The Phillies are heartbroken over the passing today of our dear friend and co-worker, Dick Allen. 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. 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 organization said.
Allen’s No. 15 was retired by the Phillies in a ceremony in September. It was a long overdue honor for one of the franchise’s greatest players who fought against racism during a tumultuous period with the team in the 1960s.
During the ceremony, Allen thanked Phillies managing partner John Middleton, who broke from the team’s longstanding “unwritten” policy of only retiring the number of players who are in the Hall of Fame.
“I thank the city of Philadelphia. Even though it was rough, I’ve made some friends along the way,” Allen said.
No way! He still looked like he could hit 40 HR at the wall of fame ceremony this summer. Damn. https://t.co/nALOnwDH0V
— Pat Gallen (@PatGallenCBS3) December 7, 2020
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, called him “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.
“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.”
Middleton choked up talking about Allen, recalling how he spent summers as a kid listening to Phillies games on a transistor radio at the Jersey shore. Allen was his favorite player.
“One of my strongest memories is a group of white suburban 8-, 9-, 10-year-old kids playing pickup ball and fantasizing we’re Dick Allen,” Middleton said. “For us, it had nothing to do with race. We just saw talent, extraordinary talent, more talent than we’ve ever seen in any baseball player in Philadelphia. We wanted to be just like Dick.”
Middleton made clear the Phillies retired Allen’s number solely on his production as a player. But he also called the abuse Allen received “horrific” and pointed out his accomplishments are even greater considering the racism he endured.
Allen was a seven-time All-Star, 1964 National League Rookie of the year and 1972 American League MVP. He batted .292 with 351 homers, 1,119 RBIs and .912 OPS in 15 seasons. Allen played first base, third base and left field.
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.
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 will not vote this year because of COVID-19 and instead will meet during the winter of 2021.
Allen joins Schmidt (20) and Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn (1), Jim Bunning (14), Steve Carlton (32), Roy Halladay (34) and Robin Roberts (36) as the only Phillies to have their numbers retired. Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein are recognized with uniform insignias from their eras in place of retired numbers.
The Phillies also unveiled a statue of Allen. The team plans to honor Allen again next season with fans in attendance.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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