I am much better with pictures than I am words, but here we go.
Sunday evening was supposed to be a joyous occasion. We were all very confident. My friend, the late Dick Allen was going to be announced as a newly elected member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Everything seemed to be lined up. The Golden Era committee was finally meeting after a year long delay to consider the candidates. Sure, it was all going to be bittersweet, but it was going to finally happen. Exactly one year after his death, Dick Allen was going to “get the call”. We were going to plan be a big summer party in Cooperstown… except it didn’t happen. Again.
For the second Golden Era Committee in a row, Dick Allen missed enshrinement by one vote. One Vote. Seven years apart, sixteen people met in a room and only eleven of them thought Dick Allen was worthy to be called a Hall of Famer. One vote. To me it was unthinkable this had happened. Again.
The one question that kept being asked over and over was… Why? To those who follow the game of baseball, Dick Allen is certainly a Hall of Famer. Modern analytics have developed in a way that clearly show he belongs. Is there something we all were missing? Am I too close to remain objective? Is it the system? Is there some strange sick conspiracy? How does this keep happening? Flying back home from Florida early this morning I continued to ponder the question. WHY? I landed on this simple conclusion… ONE PERSON.
ONE PERSON in a room of sixteen. Two Thousand Five Hundred and Fifty Five days apart. One person in a room of “experts” didn’t check the correct box. One person. That was the difference between properly recognizing one of the greatest players in the history of the game or simply ignoring him. Honestly, I did not want to know who the person was in 2014 and I don’t want to know who it was on Sunday.
One Person. That one person did not know Dick Allen. That one person did not prepare or look at the numbers. That one person did not listen to the former teammates, managers, general managers, club employees, stadium workers and fans that remember what an incredible human being he was. One person.
This I can tell you:
It wasn’t Richard Allen Jr. My dear friend “Doubie” is a quiet gentle soul whose physical traits and mannerisms remind the incredible power of human DNA. Richard was his dad’s companion for most of his big league career and biggest supporter for over 50 years. He is the living legacy of his father. And he carries it well.
It wasn’t Richard Allen III. The grandson known as “Tre” never got to see his grandfather play major league baseball but has heard enough stories to last 3 lifetimes.
It wasn’t Dick’s wife Willa. She managed his independent spirit for years and performed the difficult task of caring for him during his difficult final year. Willa was holding his hand when he took his last breath one year ago today.
I know it was not Dick’s brothers. Hank or Ron. Both great athletes, accomplished men and true gentlemen. Like Dick, they grew up and learned right from wrong under the Era Allen’s roof and made it all the way to the major leagues.
I know it was not any of Dick’s many nieces and nephews. Both Ric (Hank’s son) and Tracy (Ron’s Daughter) were in the room on Sunday. I have never seen the type of love and support as the Allen family provides for each other in moments like this. It is amazing to be around. Grandma Allen would be very proud to see how simple and pure this love flows out from her children and grandchildren.
I know it wasn’t Clem Capozzoli or Bryan Miller. Both dear friends that passed too early. Both Bryan and Clem were trusted business partners of Dick’s. They always had his best interests at heart.
I know it wasn’t Mark “Frog” Carfagno, the former member of the Phillies grounds crew that Dick “adopted” in 1975. Frog is a bulldog and has passionately campaigned on Dick’s behalf more than half his life. The last 7 years have been a nonstop whirlwind of activity focused on educating the public about who Dick really was.
I know it wasn’t film producer Mike Tollin. Mike idolized Dick as young kid, got to know him as a young man and has been working on his Dick Allen documentary for years. We had all hoped Sunday would deliver a perfect final chapter and allow the credits to roll on to this important story.
I know it wasn’t Dr. David Fletcher. He spearheaded Dick’s emotional return to Chicago in 2012 and has recently finished a book documenting the memorable 1972 MVP season with the White Sox. Doctor Fletcher arranged for all of us to be in that room together on Sunday.
I know it wasn’t Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton. He made the decision to break the long time Phillies policy on only retiring jersey numbers for players enshrined in Cooperstown. This compassionate decision to recognize Dick while he was still with us happened just in time… Dick he passed away 3 months later.
I know it wasn’t Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. The greatest 3rd baseman in the history of baseball has been very vocal supporting Dick’s Hall of Fame cause. He was in the room on Sunday doing all he could to get his friend and former teammate over the finish line.
I know it wasn’t Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, who was in the room in 2014 attempting to convince the committee Dick Allen was worthy of enshrinement. Senator Bunning died in 2017 never being able to celebrate with his former Phillies teammate in Cooperstown.
I know it wasn’t Tony Taylor. Tony was Dick’s roommate and best friend. He cooked in his room for the young black ballplayers in spring training because they were not allowed to eat at any local restaurants. Tony was the one that taught Dick how to keep his food warm by putting it on a lamp with tinfoil. Something he did until the end. Tony died a few months before Dick passed. Dick never got over the loss of his friend.
I know it wasn’t the great Negro League Hall of Famer Judy Johnson. He discovered this promising young ballplayer in Wampum while working with John Ogden as a scout for the Phillies.
I know it wasn’t Hall of Famer Rich Gossage. During his 2008 Hall of Fame speech Goose called Dick “the greatest player I ever played with” and credits him with teaching him how to pitch without fear. Shortly after Dick passed away, Goose openly wept while talking about him during a radio interview.
I know it wasn’t White Sox teammates Bill Melton, Carlos May or manager Chuck Tanner. They each got to witness firsthand what Dick Allen could do when he was not constantly being harassed and free to focus on being a major league baseball player.
I know it wasn’t Nancy Faust. She delivered the superstar soundtrack to Dick’s Chicago story and knows what he did for the franchise she called home for 4 decades.
I know it wasn’t Hall of Famers Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. These legends were very clear that they believed Dick Allen was a Hall of Famer.
I know it wasn’t the generation of future black baseball stars that came immediately after his playing career like Eddie Murray, Ellis Valentine and Dave Parker. They still speak in hushed tones about what a great player he was and how he helped change the game for them.
I know it wasn’t Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Donovan McNabb or Jimmy Rollins. Each of them recognizes the trail Dick blazed for them as black athletes finding a way to be successful in Philadelphia.
I know it wasn’t Bob Kendrick, who arranged to have Dick entered into the Negro League Baseball Museum’s Hall of Game in 2018. This recognition was very satisfying to Dick because of his admiration and understanding of how important the Negro Leagues were.
I know it wasn’t the thousands of Phillies fans that remember the long home runs he hit over the roof at old Connie Mack Stadium and continue to show their support for Dick and his family to this day.
I know it wasn’t the thousands of White Sox fans that recognize the simple fact… without Dick Allen, they would be cheering for the “Tampa Bay White Sox” or worst yet… the Cubs.
And I know it wasn’t me. I’m just a guy that was lucky enough to form a connection with his baseball hero. Somehow I happily got pulled into this amazing “inner circle” of family and friends.
Late Sunday night as I was sitting with his friends and his family trying to make sense of what had just happened, I recalled Dick describing to me what it was like getting “knocked down” by the veteran pitchers early in his career. He said they were testing him. If he showed he was afraid, he knew he was finished. Instead, he stood up, dusted himself off, adjusted his glasses and helmet and dug in for the next pitch. “It only takes one swing to get ’em back. You gotta be ready when it comes”
Sunday hurt. It still does. But I’m going to spend the next five years figuring out a way to convince that ONE PERSON that could make a difference that he deserves in. My friend is worth it.