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Remembering Dick Allen, Beethoven's Upcoming Birthday, & Two Quotes of Month (so far) [corrected version on Allen's career]

I was in the womb on December 7, 1941 so have no above-ground memories of that day in infamy.   But while preparing dinner on December 7, 2020 I learned on the internet that Dick Allen, the great slugger primarily for the Phillies and White Sox, had died at age 78. 

 
What a tough year it has been for losing baseball Hall of Famers.  Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Joe Morgan within days of each other.  Then significant contributors Jay Johnstone, Lou Johnson, Ron Perranoski gone similarly. And now Dick Allen.

 
Allen's career numbers and accomplishments suggest possible Hall of Fame status: 15 seasons, .292 BA, .534 slugging average, 351 HR, 1119 RBI, 1964 NL Rookie of the Year, 1972 AL MVP, 7 All-Star Games.

 

From 1964-1973 his numbers were up there with future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, and Willie McCovey. 

 
But Allen was fated to come into the major leagues in early Sept. 1963 less than three months before the JFK assassination.  Playing in Philadelphia - sometimes called the northern-most southern city in the U. S. -  was no picnic for a sensitive Black man, one of nine children raised in Wampum, Pa. 40 miles north of Pittsburgh.  

 

Dubbed Richie by the Philadelphia press, Dick Allen didn't like the nickname - it reminded him of being a 10-year old, Richard Goldstein noted in his NY Times obit. Allen produced as a Phillie but he followed the beat of his own drummer. 

 
Love of horses was a family tradition.  Dick's father owned working horses, and Dick's brother Hank, a major leaguer for seven seasons, trained them. One of them, Northern Wolf, finished sixth in the 1989 Kentucky Derby, the first Black-trained horse to make the "Run for the Roses" in 78 years.  

 

The end of Dick Allen's time in Philly was precipitated by his missing a 1969 Mets-Phillies doubleheader - he went instead to Monmouth track race in New Jersey. 
By the end of the season, first baseman Allen responded to Philly fan heckling by scribbling with his feet the words "Boo" and "Oct 2", the day the season ended. 

 

He was traded to St. Louis in the Curt Flood deal - Flood of course didn't report and sued baseball instead.  After the 1970 season with Cardinalsi, he was traded to the Dodgers for one season. 

 

Starting in 1972 he played three solid seasons for an understanding manager Chuck Tanner who was from New Castle near Wampum in western Pennsylvania. The White Sox press guide started listing him as Dick Allen.

 
He was traded back to Philly in 1975 and welcomed as a hero by the younger generation.  Future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and other teammates lauded him then and again this week.

 

Schmidt called him a first-class guy who wouldn't be treated as "a second-class citizen." In a ceremony this September the Phillies retired Allen's #15.   

 
I never talked to Dick Allen but my most vivid memory as a fan was when he was with the White Sox and he came into Baltimore around 1974.  In those days you could come early for batting practice and I saw him belt some long home runs LEFTHANDED into the shrubbery beyond the right-center field fence at Memorial Stadium.   

 
I did meet his brother Hank Allen when he was scouting for the Astros.  As

gregarious as his brother was shy and wary, Hank has an ingratiating manner

and silver-white hair that reminds me of Buck O'Neil. 

 

In a May 2017 interview with Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun, Hank Allen explained the similarities between horse training and baseball scouting:  "You have to find athletes and you have to find a good mind."

 

Which leads me to my QUOTES OF THE MONTH SO FAR:

 **Actress Candice "Murphy Brown" Bergen in an interview with Maureen Dowd that I saw online and was in the NY Times Sunday Style section on December 6th.  It deals with how to maneuver through celebrity and I think it applies as well to idolized athletes:   

 
"You're semi-glorified but you're also negated. You really have to make an effort to become someone more than what your presentation is."

 
**Retired future Hall of Fame right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will be coaching high school baseball in Japan. Michael Clair on mlb.com last week quoted Ichiro this way:  

"High school baseball is 'baseball'. . . . Major league baseball is a 'contest'. . . .It's mainly how far you can hit a baseball and that is hardly baseball."  

 

Finally, please remember Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) on Dec. 16, his 250th birthday. He once said, "Those who understand my music can know no unhappiness."  Not sure it is true, but his music is certainly consoling in this time of great sickness and uncertainty. 

 

WQXR-FM 105.9 and wqxr.org plan a lot of Beethoven programming beginning on Dec. 12 through Dec. 16.

 
And always remember:  Take it easy but take it.  

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Yankee-Red Sox London Slugfests Bring Back Memories of Phillies-Cubs 23-22 1979 Classic Re-Told In Kevin Cook's "Ten Innings At Wrigley"

I have my doubts that the two end-of-June slugfests the Yankees and Red Sox engaged in at London's Olympic Stadium will "grow the game" in Europe as both players and owners claim.  It was somewhat entertaining if you like lots of run-scoring and bizarre plays. 

 
My favorite moment was the amazing catch of a foul pop-up by Red Sox rookie first baseman Michael Chavis in the final game of the two-game series. He's not really a first baseman but injuries to regular Mitch Moreland and his capable sub Steve Pearce forced Chavis into an unfamiliar position.  

 
In a stadium built for track and field, now used for soccer and never for baseball, foul territory is huge. Far larger than either Oakland's cavernous Coliseum or Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  After not making a play on a similar foul on Saturday, Michael Chavis calculated the distance better on his second chance.  

 
Starting from between first and second, he raced into foul territory like a sprinter, slid, and made the catch with room to spare before he hit the wall. Yet I sure hope before the next series in 2020 between the Cubs and Cardinals, they somehow reduce the foul territory.  

 
Red Sox manager Alex Cora was very honest after the Yankees swept the games, 17-13 and 12-8.  "They are better than us right now," he said.  The Sox did show spunk by making games of each tussle, but their bullpen is in disarray. 

 
There is now talk of putting oft-injured starter Nathan Eovaldi in the closer's role when he returns. Yet I wouldn't count out the defending world champions from making a run, at least at the first wild card.  They still have the Four Killer B's in the heart of their lineup - Benintendi, Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley Jr., all home-grown by the way. And I haven't even mentioned the big bopping Trump-supporting J. D. Martinez.

 

The six-run first-inning haymakers delivered by both teams in the 17-13 must have shocked the British locals used to seeing low-scoring soccer. In blessed baseball, nothing is new under the sun.  

 

To my mind the game brought back memories of the 23-22 10 inning game in May 1979 in which the Phillies scored 7 in the first only to see the Cubs respond with 6 of their own. Later in that game, Philly couldn't hold 15-6 and 21-9 leads and needed a Mike Schmidt 10th inning homer off future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter to give them the victory.   

 

Kevin Cook has brought that game back to life in "Ten Innings at Wrigley:  The Wildest Ballgame Ever, With Baseball At The Brink" (Henry Holt).  Cook, who recently authored the absorbing "Electric Baseball" about key characters in the 1947 Dodgers-Yankees World Series, is blessed with an almost pitch-perfect ear for pithy character revelations.  

 

Here is sportswriter John Schulian remembering  Cubs manager Herman Franks seated in his office "with his feet on his desk, eating chocolate donuts and smoking a cigar, ignoring questions."  There is Phillies manager Danny Ozark, the master of malapropisms, saying that an opening day ovation sent "a twinkle up my spine."

 

But when starting to feel the heat for failing to make the World Series with three straight playoff teams, Ozark branded Phillie fans as "the boo-birds of unhappiness."  To a player demanding more time on the field, Ozark scoffs, "His limitations are limitless."  


"Ten Innings" is a lively summer read, but what separates it from the usual light baseball reading are the sensitive stories of the players and their later lives.  Bill Buckner, who died just after the book came out, is remembered as a gritty ballplayer who played hard through nearly-crippling injuries. In a reflective moment before the start of the 1986 World Series, he even mentions a nightmare of missing a ball on defense.  

 
Dave Kingman, the other offensive power on the 1979 Cubs, is recalled as focused almost entirely on his home run output to the detriment of other aspects of his game.  He did draw many fans to Wrigley, prompting Cubs fan turned official team historian Ed Hartig to tell Cook, "He was bad in interesting ways."  Kingman's contempt for the press is well-described but he is now evidently living his life happily as a family man in Lake Tahoe. 

 

The most tragic story in "Ten Innings" centers on relief pitcher Donnie Moore who entered the game after starter Dennis Lamp was knocked out in the first inning.  (In one of the vivid details that permeate this fine read, Lamp's wife arrived late for the game and no one was eager to tell her what had happened.)  

 

Cook was able to interview Moore's daughter who provides many insights on the life of her talented tormented father who committed suicide in 1989 after failing to kill his wife. Observations from Moore's teammate and fellow moundsman Ray Burris are very moving, memories of happier times in Chicago 1979.    

 
That's all for now.  Next time I want to say a lot about the play "Toni Stone".  For now I just want to mention it is running through Aug. 11 at the Pels Theatre at 111 W 46th Street just west of Sixth Ave. in NYC.   The story of the first woman to play baseball in the Negro Leagues is extremely well-told, acted, and choreographed.  

 
Always remember:  Take it easy but take it! 

 

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