Remembering Richard Anthony Allen (March 8, 1942 – December 7, 2020), Feared Slugger Who Stood Up to Bigotry

Remembering Richard Anthony Allen (March 8, 1942 – December 7, 2020), Feared Slugger Who Stood Up to Bigotry

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.

The New York Times, 12/09/20 See “Dick Allen, 78, Dies; Baseball Slugger Withstood Bigotry” (online edition)

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:

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.

During the the 1960’s, Topp’s produced cards with the condescending moniker, Richie. (l-r, t-b) Topps © 1968, Topps ©  © 1970 [David Kramer’s collection]

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.

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.

1970 Milton Bradley OFFICIAL BASEBALL CARD game [David Kramer’s collection]

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.

Topps © 1970. Note that Allen is pictured in his 1969 Phillies uniform. [David Kramer’s collection]

During the 1970 season, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch usually referred to Allen as Rich.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1970

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.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 10th, 1970 (left caption) FIGHT FAN. Pitcher Jerry Reuss was the only Cardinal player who didn’t join in the mob scene on the field after Rich Allen threatened Montreal hurler Bill Stoneman in the second game of the doubleheader yesterday at Busch Stadium. Reuss punished the Expos by holding them to two hits as the Redbirds won, 4-0. (right caption) READING FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: The crowd around the mound appeared to be all Cardinals after Allen charged the mound. Stoneman had thrown a pitch near Allen’s head in the second inning and the Redbird slugger” went after the hurler with bat in hand, although no blows were struck. (Post-Dispatch Photos by Lynn T. Spence)

As mentioned in his obituary, Allen finally became Dick when he joined the White Sox.

(l-r) Topps © 1973, 1975 and 1976 [David Kramer’s collection]

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.

3-D SUPER STARS Richard Anthony Allen #42 © 1975 Exograph ®  As seen in the featured pic at beginning, Allen’s signature is “Rich Allen.” Note Allen is listed as an Atlanta Brave. Allen was traded by the White Sox in December 1974, but in May 1975, he was traded to the Phillies. [From David Kramer’s collection]

Whether on not his Allen’s pastime indicates his famed independent attitude, the 1973 card says, “Dick likes to listen to stereo music.”

(l-r) Topps © 1974 and 1973 [David Kramer’s collection]

Apparently, Allen found Chicago fans less bigoted that Phillie fans as “Dick likes to play in the Windy City.”

NOTE

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.


The New York Times, 12’10/20 See “The Hall of Fame Kept Dick Allen Waiting. He Ran Out of Time,” (online version)

SEE

Mt. Morris’s Roscoe Barnes was the Joe Morgan of his era

Frank Robinson (1935 – 2019) and a glove signed at the 1988 Orioles-Red Wings exhibition game

WHEN JACKIE ROBINSON BROKE THE COLOR LINE IN ROCHESTER

70 years ago today when Jackie Robinson broke the color line at Red Wings Stadium

WHEN THE PITTSBURGH PIRATED FIELDED THE FIRST ALL BLACK LINEUP 

45 years ago when the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded a team of “All brothers out there”

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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