As reported by Larry Shenk, Alumni Day last Saturday was so well-received within the Phillies organization that it will become an annual event in Spring Training.
Richie “Dick” Allen was warmly received by the Phillies fans, a remarkable testament to how time can heal deep wounds. Mike Schmidt’s love/hate relationship with the fans, and the emerging love/hate relationship with Ryan Howard, always seems to center on power hitters who strike out as prodigiously as they homer. But the flames are fanned by that cool, aloof atty-tude that each of these three sluggers – Allen, Schmidt and Howard exuded.
Richie Allen, the Wampum Wallop, may have been the most naturally talented athlete every to wear a Phillies uniform. He was a key factor in the Phils run for the pennant in 1964 when he garnered Rookie of the Year honors. Things deteriorated quickly for Richie, embroiled in racial controversy and devolving into a post-injury stint in LF at Connie Mack which was the start of a Philadelphia tradition of throwing pennies and penlight batteries at players of ill repute. By the time he left Philly at the end of the 1969 season, the relationship was much more hate than love – punctuated by public messages he sent to fans who he felt treated him like dirt.
Controversy had a way of swirling around Dick Allen, and even his departure from Philly changed the course of baseball. He was traded to the Cardinals along with Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. Who did the Phillies get in return? Tim McCarver, Byron Browne, and Joe Hoerner. A pretty imbalanced trade you might say. Allen would go play in the All-Star game that year, and enjoyed a good season with LA the following year and then an MVP season with the White Sox the year after. Even though Timmy Mac would go on to serve as Steve Carlton’s personal catcher, that isn’t why the Phils made the trade. The key player they wanted was Curt Flood – only Flood refused to come to Philadelphia, deciding instead to challenge baseball’s reserve clause and effectively kill his career in the process.
Richie Allen returned to Philadelphia as a St. Louis Cardinal on May 12, 1970, his first game at Connie Mack in a non-Phllies uniform, and received a less than kindly reception in the top of the first inning as he strode to the plate face Phils’ left-hander Woody Fryman. Listening to the audio from the game of Allen’s four at-bats is not only high drama, but will remind you of what gifted announcers we had at the time in the tandem of Bill Campbell and By Saam.