John Middleton described it as correcting an injustice. For years, it was the Phillies’ policy not to retire a player’s number unless they were inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
That all changed today.
Dick Allen (known in other cities as Richie) had his iconic number 15 retired in front of a select, socially distanced, crowd. Speakers included John Middleton, Mike Schmidt, and Mike Tollin.
His Rookie of the Year campaign of 1964 set the tone for a, hopefully still, Hall of Fame career. He led the National League in runs scored, triples, and total bases. Although not used at the time, he finished 3rd in WAR (8.8) only behind Hall of Famers Ron Santo (8.9) and Willy Mays (11.0). With a slashline of .318/.382/.557, it is possibly the best rookie year a hitter has ever had.
The rest of his Phillies tenure was just as good. In 9 seasons through 2 different stints, Allen slashed .290/.371/.530. He played in 3 All-Star Games as a Phillies and received MVP votes in 4 seasons.
His best year came as a Chicago White Sock, however. In 1972 after being traded from the Dodgers, Allen led the league in home runs (37), RBI’s (113), walks (99), OBP (.420), slugging % (.603), OPS (1.023), and OPS+ (199). All those black marks on his baseball card netted Allen the 1972 AL MVP award.
During the ceremony, both Middleton and Tollin reminisced about being young children listening to the radio and hearing of Allen’s exploits with the Phillies. Both noted Allen’s career as the point when they both became hardcore baseball fans.
Mike Tollin eventually became great friends with Allen after a chance encounter in the Oakland A’s locker room. Tollin is probably best known as the executive producer of “The Last Dance“, the 10-part Michael Jordan documentary. He is now working on a documentary about Dick Allen’s life.
Phillies legend Mike Schmidt also spoke at the ceremony. He noted how the Phillies convinced Allen to come back to Philadelphia in 1975. He also spoke about how great of a teammate and mentor Allen was. One of Schmidt’s most iconic moments, hitting 4 home runs in one game against the Cubs, was fueled by Allen. Before the game, Allen told Schmidt to just have fun and he sure did.
One thing that was echoed by every speaker was that Allen deserves to be inducted in Cooperstown. His 68.5 offensive WAR from 1964-1974 was higher than Hank Aaron (63.9), Frank Robinson (59.0), and Carl Yastrzemski (56.3). Other numbers he posted were similar to Hall of Famers as well. Plus, here’s a video of him breaking up a Nolan Ryan no-hitter.
I’d be remiss not to mention some of the more somber tones from the ceremony. It was noted about how Allen had to face rabid racism in his career, especially in the 1960s. One story stood out. When Allen was still in the minors he had to play in Arkansas in the early 1960s. He had to endure so many pressures, even a cop pulling a gun on him while he was getting a Pepsi.
All the pressures made him break down while on a phone call with his mother. Some pointed words helped Allen persevere through the pressures. Mike Schmidt provided a quote to help sum up Allen’s experience.
“He was a sensitive black man that refused to be treated as a second-class citizen.”
That refusal has led to a legendary career and an enshrinement in Phillies history forever. The number 15, last worn by Andrew Knapp, will never be worn by a Phillie again.
Mandatory Credit – Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire