Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen (and other Dick Allen stuff).
When it comes to Dick Allen, I have repeated these two things more than once on the blog: 1) Dick Allen needs to be in the Hall of Fame and 2) PLEASE go out and read his autobiography “Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen.” Now with that said I want to push both things in this post, kind of a Dick Allen appreciation with a book review with an agenda if you will.
As far as him being in the Hall of Fame, the stats add up. Especially if you look at the era he played in which was extremely pitcher friendly (mid-1960s, aka. the return of the dead ball). His batting line was .292/.378/.534 over 15 seasons in the Major leagues. In addition, the 1964 ROY and 1972 AL MVP retired with 351 career Home Runs, 1119 RBI’s, and was a x7 time All-Star. The dude needs to be in the HOF without a doubt, and why isn’t he? Well let’s just say he didn’t have a good relationship with most writers and members of the media. Unfortunately we all know that is what really counts in the long run. Here is a nice little segment that the MLB Network did on Allen and the HOF. They list him as the #4 player who should be a member of Cooperstown who currently is not:
Ok, so on to the book and oh, what a great book it is! I really can not count how many times I have suggested that friends read it. Written in 1989, well over a decade after Allen’s career ended; the author Tim Whitaker chronicles everything that comes out of Allen’s mouth in regards to his Baseball career in a not so orthodox way that in some ways does not follow a straight time-line. This keeps it the book very fresh. You feel like you are sitting there with Allen while he voices his displeasure with the racist fans that greeted him with abuse in the Minor Leagues as the first Black professional Baseball player in Little Rock, Arkansas. Or as he talks about his fight with Frank Thomas (see below) which very well may have turned the media against him and in turn sparked a chain reaction of abuse from fans and writers for years to come. All in all, his peaks and valleys during his career are well documented.
HOWEVER, as Tim Whitaker mentions, it is hard to get Allen to speak openly about his positive accomplishments as a player. One example is his incredible 1972 MVP season as a member of the Chi-Sox. So instead of hounding Allen to speak about the season, Whitaker gets ex-teammates and coaches to speak about it instead and then waits for Allen’s small comments to build up here and there and put it together like a jigsaw puzzle (If that makes sense?). Just read the book, it’s always cheap on Amazon so you have no excuse. Also for you Baseball nerds who take everything Bill James says like the sacred word from god, he called “Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen” one of the best baseball books in recent years when it came out.
So now here are some excerpts from the book to enjoy which hopefully prompts you to read it:
-In regards to the fight with Frank Thomas which involved Right Fielder Johnny Callison:
So Callison waits until Thomas takes a big swing and a miss down at the batting case. Then he yells, “Hey Lurch!” Thomas yells back “You rang?” Then Callison says, “Why don’t you try to bunt instead?”
Callison’s gibe struck a nerve. The night before, Frank Thomas had been at the plate with runners on first and third with one out. Afraid of hitting into a double play, Thomas had tried to bunt the ball – not once but three times, striking out awkwardly in the process. The sight of the big, burly Thomas attempting to bunt had the Philadelphia players still laughing the next the morning at breakfast.
Dick Allen continues:
But instead of answering Callison’s taunts, Thomas glares down the third-base line at me and screams, “What are you trying to be, another Muhammad Clay, always running your mouth off?” Thomas knew it was Callison who had taunted him. The “Muhammad Clay” remark was meant to say a lot, and it reminded me of how he would bend back a black player’s thumb for laughs.
Next thing I remember is hearing the bell ring, the signal for the regulars to come in to hit. I went down to the cage and there’s Thomas, resting his elbow on a bat, waiting for me. Like I said, he knew it was coming. I went over, right in his face. I said “Frank, I told you, that stuff don’t go with me.” Then I popped him, a short left to the jaw. He went down, then he got up swinging that bat. I ducked, but he caught me on the left shoulder. I just wanted to teach him a lesson. Now I wanted to kill him.”
-Dick Allen on Mickey Mantle (VERY funny):
“We’re playing the Yankees in spring training, ’65. Mantle’s on first, I’m playing third. One of the Yankees hits a rope to right center. Now here comes Mantle, he’s heading for third, right for me. I can see it’s going to be close. There’s a huge swirl of dust. The umpire’s right in there with us. When the dust finally settles, the ump looks down at both of us sprawled on the ground and shakes his head. ‘I’ve never smelled so much booze in my life,’ he tells me and Mantle. ‘Get off your asses before you set each other on fire.’ “
-And finally, Dick Allen on meeting Cool Papa Bell. It’s very interesting and actually kind of thought provoking. After reading the book you definitely know where he is coming from :
“He said I could have been one of them,” the Ballplayer says of Cool Papa Bell. “He said I had power and I could run, the two most important requirements in Negro League baseball.” It is a rare display of Dick Allen braggadocio. Later, reflecting on his encounter with Bell, Allen waxes philosophic: “It’s funny. Back in their day, the Negro League players all wanted to be big leaguers. They felt deprived because they could never get in. And there I was, in my day, a big leaguer who felt he lost out because he never got a chance to play in the Negro Leagues.”
Well, thats all I got on Dick Allen today. Hopefully I inspire some of you to read up on the slugger from Wampum, Pennsylvania, what he accomplished in Baseball, some of the struggles he had, and hopefully to continue to spread the case of his potential Hall of Fame candidacy. I leave you with this photo from the 1977 season while he was a member of the A’s. He decided to pay homage to his hometown and had the words “WAMPUM” instead of his last name on the back of his jersey. Way cooler than Chad Johnson and that “Ocho-Cinco” nonsense.