Dick Allen, the power-hitting former Phillie known for bashing baseballs over the wall, and, occasionally, the roof, at old Connie Mack Stadium, will have his uniform number raised onto the wall at Citizens Bank Park later this summer.
The team announced on Thursday that it would retire Allen's No. 15 on Sept. 3, the 57th anniversary of Allen's Phillies debut.
"Dick Allen burst onto the 1964 Phillies and immediately established himself as a superstar," Phillies managing partner John Middleton said in a statement. "His legendary performance on the field gave millions of fans lasting memories, and he helped cement my love for baseball and the Phillies as a young boy. The Phillies organization is thrilled to give Dick and his family this honor that recognizes his Hall of Fame-worthy career and his legacy as one of the greatest Phillies of all time."
Allen will become the eighth former Phillie to have his number retired by the club, joining Richie Ashburn (1), Jim Bunning (14), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), Robin Roberts (36) and Roy Halladay (34). Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein did not wear regular numbers, but their jerseys have been retired.
Allen is the only one of these players not to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, but that could change in December when he once again will be on the Hall of Fame's Golden Days ballot. The Golden Days committee considers those who played from 1950 to 1969. Allen fell one vote shy of making the Hall of Fame when the committee last voted in December 2014 and there has been considerable public support for his election this time. Schmidt has come out in support of Allen and Mark Carfagno, a former Veterans Stadium groundskeeper and close friend of Allen, has led a social media campaign.
Retiring Allen's number without his being a Hall of Famer touches on an interesting and growing debate surrounding the Phillies.
The team previously had an unwritten policy of only retiring the numbers of players who had been elected to the Hall of Fame. By retiring Allen's number at this time, the Phillies have left open the possibility of retiring the numbers worn by Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. None of the three have appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot yet and their candidacies are far from being slam dunks.
But as Phillies players, Rollins, Utley and Howard were all-time greats — the best shortstop, second baseman and first baseman, respectively, in club history. Their contributions helped the Phillies win five division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series from 2007-11. Rollins is the franchise's all-time hits leader and a former NL MVP. Utley was the Phillies' most popular player and the top offensive second baseman in the game until knee injuries robbed him of some of his prime years. Howard was an NL rookie of the year, an MVP and a home run and RBI king.
If the Phillies are going to consider non-Hall of Famers for number retirement, they also could one day look at Charlie Manuel, the World Series-winning manager who presided over the most successful period in club history, and Larry Bowa, a brilliant shortstop, World Series champion, and fan favorite who has contributed to the organization for decades as a player, coach, manager, adviser and ambassador.
Allen, 68, still works for the Phillies as ambassador. A native of Wampum, Pennsylvania (northwest of Pittsburgh), he signed with the Phillies as an 18-year-old in 1960. Four years later, the young third baseman hit .318 with 38 doubles, 13 triples, 29 home runs and 91 RBIs. The seemingly pennant-bound Phillies infamously collapsed down the stretch in that 1964 season, but Allen was named NL rookie of the year, an award that was later renamed in honor of one of his heroes, Jackie Robinson.
Allen spent nine of his 15 seasons with the Phillies and represented the club three times as an All-Star. He hit 204 of his 351 career homers with the Phillies. He swung a bat so big — 40 ounces or more in some seasons — that teammates thought it was a weighted bat used for warmups. Allen finished fourth in the NL MVP race in 1966 behind Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays. He hit .317 with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 40 homers, 110 RBIs and a league-leading .632 slugging percentage that season.
Allen twice led the American League in homers, slugging and OPS for the Chicago White Sox, including in 1972 when he was AL MVP.
On the all-time list, Allen ranks 43rd with a .536 slugging percentage.
In an 11-year stretch from 1964 to 1974, in an era of dominant pitchers, he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. He averaged 29 homers and 89 RBIs over that span while hitting .299 with a .940 OPS. Only Hall of Famer Hank Aaron's .941 OPS was better over that span. Allen slugged .554 from 1964 to 1974, second only to Aaron's .561. Only Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Aaron had more extra-base hits than Allen's 670 in that 11-year run.
Allen posted better numbers than many of his contemporaries who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Allen, however, never received more than 18.9 percent of the necessary 75 percent for election to the Hall by the writers. He fell off the ballot in 1997.
Allen's Hall of Fame candidacy during his time on the writers' ballot was clearly impacted by some of the off-field baggage he'd accumulated as a player. As a young player, Allen was occasionally rebellious and insubordinate. He battled with teammates and managers and was a target for fans. He tried to force a trade from Philadelphia by writing messages in the dirt around first base at Connie Mack Stadium.
The passage of time has offered new and more empathetic perspectives on Allen's behavior and what he was going through at the time. He dealt with racism as a Phillies minor-leaguer in the South. The Phillies were the last team in the NL to integrate and Allen was the club's first African American star at a time of racial tension in America.
Allen is the first African American to have his number retired by the Phillies. Backup catcher Andrew Knapp had been wearing No. 15. He will switch to No. 7.
And now, with his number going up on the bricks beyond the centerfield wall at Citizens Bank Park, the only remaining question regarding Dick Allen's greatness as a player will be answered this winter when the Hall of Fame's Golden Days Committee considers his merits once again.
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