Dick Allen fans come together to boost Hall of Fame candidacy

Posted: July 28, 2014

HE USED to crack home runs into the night over the glistening scoreboard at old Connie Mack Stadium.

Richard Ashburn Jr., the Hall of Famer's eldest son, said it was like "watching God hit a baseball." Former Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler said he'd never leave the ballpark while Allen had another at-bat.

It was the good, old days pancaked into one afternoon at Richie Ashburn Field in FDR Park yesterday, as dozens gathered to remember a legendary star and hopefully propel him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

And just as when he stepped to the plate in 1963 for his major league debut with the Phillies or his return in '75, his longtime friend, Dan Baker, announced Allen's name.

"Now batting for the Phillies, No. 15, Dick . . . Allen," said the Phillies public address announcer, standing in front of home plate before a small crowd.

"He was a lightning rod for this city and a proud outspoken man at a time when men of his color weren't encouraged to be proud and outspoken," Baker said. "He helped bring this city together . . . but it was Dick Allen that brought the fans of this city together . . . He had a huge socio-cultural impact for the good of the city of Philadelphia."

Supporters of the former Phillies slugger unveiled a 55-page presentation that was delivered to members of the Hall's Historic Overview Committee that will decide which players will be included on a 2014 ballot highlighting players from baseball's Golden Era.

The presentation was filled with statistics, anecdotes and testimonials from former players, managers, baseball executives, media members and more. When Allen played, in a period when pitching was dominant, his stats were on par with other greats.

From his National League Rookie of the Year season in 1964 through 1973, his on-base plus slugging plus percentage (OPS+) was 165, higher than 17 current Hall of Famers, including Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays and Robert Clemente, other stars from the Golden Era. His career OPS+ of 156 is also higher than that of those four.

Richard Allen Jr. said he skipped a family reunion for his father's tribute, an event Allen, 72, did not attend.

"I used to think, just like everyone else, that the numbers were marginal," Allen Jr. said. "But [people] said to consider the era he played in. And there was some truth to that . . . He was known for controversy. And people look at the controversy more than the numbers. This is why something like today needs to be said."

The seven-time All-Star and American League MVP (1972) played 15 seasons in the majors, batting .292, smashing 351 homers and driving in 1,119 runs.

He was a man of the people, said Mark "Frog" Carfagno, 60, the former Phillies groundskeeper and good friend of Allen who has been instrumental in the campaign to get Allen inducted. Some baseball historians called Allen a cancer in the clubhouse, but Carfagno disagrees. In 1975, when Allen returned to the Phils, Carfagno and his crew yelled, "Welcome back, 15" and Allen replied, "Welcome back, Kotter," referencing the 1975 sitcom.

Shirts were made, and Carfagno and crew became the "Kotter Gang," a testament to the men Allen befriended around the clubhouse.

Some fans disliked Allen's attitude during the racially charged Sixties, but those who knew him were always greeted with a gracious hug. From Connie Mack, to Veterans Stadium, to reunion appearances at Citizens Bank Park, he never forgot. And neither did those who crossed his path or watch him yank shots to the outfield.

"All of us here love No. 15; that's why we're here," said Mike Tollin, a film and television producer. "When No. 15 came to bat, everything stopped. You weren't coming to dinner, you weren't coming to bed, everything stopped . . . He's the polar opposite of what we were given in the Sixties . . . There's more humanity in him than there was power in his bat."

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