There are few figures in baseball that were as polarizing as Dick Allen was during his career. Philadelphia fans maintained a blurry line between love and hate for Dick which helped forge his reputation that followed him from city to city. Allen was a bonafide superstar during his era, who some say never met his true potential. Multiple stops in his career ended in messes that were partially Dick’s fault but in hindsight not totally. There have not been many attempts at putting Dick Allen’s complete story in print, quite honestly, this is one of the few I have ever found in my travels. Now there is a new book coming out in a few weeks that gives a more in depth look at the man behind the legend.
Where does one even start when talking about Dick Allen? He is such a complex personality that has gotten so little attention since his retirement that it would seem overwhelming to any writer willing to tackle the subject. The prior book about Dick Allen as mentioned above relied on interviews with Allen himself. It presented some conflicting stories that made the reader feel like he did not get the whole story. This new book relies on interviews with some people who witnessed events first hand and gave a different perspective on everything that happened.
Nathanson walks the reader through Dick’s entire career, from the minors to all his stops in the majors. He shows the horrible treatment Allen endured in the south during his baseball training as well as the same racism he he had to put up with playing for Philadelphia. The author dissects the love hate relationship between Allen and the Phillies fans and shows his treatment may have been a part of the bigger mindset of the town itself, not just a personal dislike for Allen. On the flip side of the City of Philadelphia’s shortcomings you also get to see how Dick Allen did not make the situation better for himself along the way. Some things get clarified while other things may forever be a mystery. Neither party is innocent in the course of events but this book helps clarify the fact that the events that happened in Philadelphia were not all Dick Allen’s fault.
The author also covers all of the other stops along Dick’s career path. While each one had a mix of success and trouble, each one ended the same way, the team was glad to be moving on. The most interesting part to me of this book was the events that led up to Dick’s return to the Phillies. You see the change in the city’s mindset and team management that helped welcome Dick home for one last stand. You can see the healing on both sides and the change of attitudes. To some extent I think the Phillies fans realized what they once had and to some degree were willing to make amends for past indiscretions. This also allowed Dick to leave baseball on his own terms and finish up with the Oakland A’s. The only thing I wish this book had was more about Dick on a personal level. It mostly sticks to his career, but does offer a few glimpses behind the scenes. I wold like to know more about Dick Allen the person, but few of us will ever be so lucky.
This book really sheds some light on Dick Allen and the events of his career. There are plenty of things that transpired that fans, owners, management and Dick himself should not be so proud of, but it does give a complete picture of what happened during those times. All that aside, the most recent question as of late is does Dick belong in the Hall of Fame. If you remove the Phillies association out of the equation for me, I still say yes to his induction. He was a major player in the 60’s and 70’s and made some great contributions to the game on the field and contributed some great things of the field when he mentored younger players. His introverted personality may have rubbed some people the wrong way at the time, but it still not diminish his contributions to the game. Hopefully the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will get it right the next time around.
Baseball fans should not miss this book. It is a player that never has gotten much book coverage and it really sheds new light on what we all thought about Dick Allen.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Pennsylvania Press