3-D SUPER STARS Richard Anthony Allen #42 © 1975 Exograph ® [From David Kramer’s collection]
As seen in Mt. Morris’s Roscoe Barnes was the Joe Morgan of his era, last month we lost Joe Morgan, one of the great Black ballplayers of the 60s, 70s and 80s. On Monday, we lost another great Black player of the 60s and 70s, Dick Allen. Unlike Morgan, Allen has not been voted into the Hall of Fame.
Sadly, Allen died the day after a scheduled meeting of the Golden Days committee that was to consider his Hall of Fame candidacy, but the vote was canceled because of the pandemic. Hopefully, Allen will be posthumously inducted.
(See “The Hall of Fame Kept Dick Allen Waiting. He Ran Out of Time,” (online version 12/10/20, NYTimes) PRINT VERSION AT END)
As reported in “Dick Allen, 78, Dies; Baseball Slugger Withstood Bigotry” (NYTimes, 12/09/20 online edition), Allen was the first Black star for Philadelphia, the last National League franchise to integrate. White fans threw debris at him, yelled degrading slurs and dumped trash on his front lawn. Allen grew so weary of the fans that he scratched “BOO” in the dirt at Connie Mack Stadium and wore a helmet in the field.
I came of baseball age before the prime years of Allen. But when reading his obituary, I was reminded of the racially charged representations surrounding how Allen wanted to be named. Not the condescending Richie that made him sound boyish. Maybe Rich, but preferably Dick or Richard. When I went back to my card collection, I saw the transformation writ large.
As the obituary states:
In Mathew Frey Jacobson’s chapter “Richie Allen, Whitey’s Ways, and Me: A Political Education in the 1960s” from In the Game: Race, Identity, and Sports in the Twentieth Century, 2005, [pdf provided by the author]¹ Jacobson elaborates on various ways Allen was named.
During his early years with the Phillies, his teammates called him Richie, a name he disliked. “My name is Richard, and they called me Dick in the minor leagues,” he once said. The name Richie, he added, “makes me sound like I’m 10 years old.” It wasn’t until 1972, his first season with the White Sox, that he entirely shed his “Richie” moniker. The Sox referred to him in their press book as Dick and instructed their public address announcer to do the same.
Dick Allen was unanimously renamed “Richie” in 1960 by a white press wholly indifferent to the young ballplayer’s protestations that everyone from his mother on down had always called him “Dick.”
Later, when Allen finally did insist upon his rightful name after several years of patiently accepting what he thought a vaguely racist diminutive, the press variously ignored his request, spitefully granted it (“Dick ‘Don’t Call Me Richie’ Allen”), or—worse—depicted the “name-change” as an emblem of Allen’s unstable character (as in: “in mid-career he became, adamantly, ‘Dick.’” Sports Illustrated referred to this as Allen’s “first name sensitivity.”)
The racist connotations are not hard to see. The white press believed it had the right to “control” Allen.
Like Topps, the 1970 Milton Bradley OFFICIAL BASEBALL CARD game refers to Allen as Richie.The change first occurred, somewhat, in the 1970 Topps edition after Allen was traded to St.Louis. Here, Richie has become Rich, and his full name is listed on back. During the 1970 season, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch usually referred to Allen as Rich.
A notable exception was an August 10th headline: Richie Sizzles After Sizzler Near Noggin. Montreal’s Bill Stoneman had thrown a pitch near Allen’s head, prompting “Richie” to approach Stoneman with bat in hand. The headline seems to point to Allen’s supposed lack of emotional self-control.
As mentioned in his obituary, Allen finally became Dick when he joined the White Sox.The 1975 3-D Super Stars calls Allen “Richie” — although Allen’s signature says Rich, as seen in the featured pic at beginning — noting “Richie’s famed independent attitude.” Perhaps a white player’s “attitude” would not be mentioned. Whether on not his Allen’s pastime indicates his famed independent attitude, the 1973 card says, “Dick likes to listen to stereo music.” Apparently, Allen found Chicago fans less bigoted that Phillie fans as “Dick likes to play in the Windy City.”
¹ Professor Jacobson kindly sent me the full text of his chapter after this article was published. “Richie Allen, Whitey’s Ways, and Me: A Political Education in the 1960s” is a comprehensive and compelling look at Allen’s career, and that of other Black stars in the 1960s. Jacobson writes: “This essay is not primarily about Dick Allen, but—quite deliberately—about Richie Allen, a creation of the white press, a negative icon of the Civil Rights era, ‘just about the premier bad boy in sports.'” Jacobson also fondly remembers his Allen baseball card:
I had the 1965 Topps trading card of Allen—the Phillies flag in one corner, the little Rookie of the Year statuette in the other.
Today, in SportsThursday (NYTIMES) Tyler Kepner discusses Allen’s Hall of Fame credentials.
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