Dick Allen Had to Wear a Helmet All Game

Slugger endured racial slurs and objects thrown at him on the field
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2020 7:30 PM CST
Dick Allen Had to Wear a Helmet All Game
Dick Allen, left, looks on as former teammate Mike Schmidt, second from left, and Phillies managing partner John Middleton unveil his retired number in September.   (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Dick Allen hit the ball so hard that fans in Philadelphia started showing up in batting practice during his rookie season just to watch him hammer shots over the Coca-Cola sign atop the left-center field roof at Connie Mack Stadium. The rousing attention, he got that early. The rightful acclaim required a much longer wait. Allen, a seven-time All-Star slugger whose fight against racism during a tumultuous time with the Phillies in the 1960s cost him on and off the field, died Monday. He was 78. The 1964 NL Rookie of Year and 1972 AL MVP had a lengthy illness at home in Wampum, Pennsylvania, the AP reports. "Dick will be remembered as not just one of the greatest and most popular players in our franchise’s history, but also as a courageous warrior who had to overcome far too many obstacles to reach the level he did," the Phillies said. Allen's No. 15 was retired by the Phillies in September, an honor considered way overdue by many for one of the franchise’s greatest players. "I thank the city of Philadelphia. Even though it was rough, I've made some friends along the way," Allen said in an emotional ceremony.

The team planned to honor Allen, who batted .292 with 351 home runs, 1,119 RBIs, and .912 OPS in 15 seasons, again in 2021. Mike Schmidt, a Hall of Fame third baseman for the Phillies, called Allen "an amazing mentor" who was wrongly labeled a "bad teammate" and "troublemaker" in his speech at the ceremony. "Dick was a sensitive Black man who refused to be treated as a second-class citizen. He played in front of home fans that were products of that racist era (with) racist teammates and different rules for whites and Blacks," Schmidt said. "Fans threw stuff at him, and thus Dick wore a batting helmet throughout the whole game. They yelled degrading racial slurs. They dumped trash in his front yard at his home. In general, he was tormented and it came from all directions. And Dick rebelled." Allen answered in his own way, sometimes scratching "Boo" or "No" with his cleats in the dirt around the bases. Schmidt pointed out Allen didn't have a negative reputation when he played in St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Chicago. "These labels have kept Dick Allen out of the Hall of Fame," Schmidt said in his speech.

(More obituary stories.)

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