Dick Allen won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1964 and played in 1,749 games over a 15-year career in the major leagues. (AP)

I’ve been writing for several years that there was a very good book to be written about Dick Allen and why he isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now that book has been written. “God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen” by Mitchell J. Nathanson, a law professor at Villanova University, is, in my opinion, one of the half-dozen or so best baseball books published so far this century. If the name Dick Allen doesn’t ring a bell, try Richie Allen, the name on his baseball cards from his rookie season in 1964 (though he played 10 games for the Phillies the previous year) to his final season, 1977. You might also remember him for prodigious home runs, and, even more likely, for spates of controversy in nearly every city he played. Let’s make it clear up front that those controversies, not the caliber of baseball he played, have kept Dick (his preferred first name) Allen out of the Cooperstown, N.Y., National Baseball Hall of Fame. He played for 15 seasons (just 11 of them “full” seasons in which he played at least 100 games) and retired with a career batting average of .292 with 351 home runs, an on-base average of .378 and a slugging percentage of .534. You may not be blown away by these numbers, but as baseball writer Steven Goldman pointed out a few years ago, “Allen’s statistics were compiled during one of the most difficult periods for hitters in baseball history—a time when all the rules and all the factors were geared toward giving pitchers the edge. If he had played in the fifties or nineties or now, his numbers would be dazzling.” The numbers that dazzle us most from the 1960s and early ’70s were racked up by Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Tom Seaver and other Hall of Fame pitchers. The height of the mound, the width of the strike zone, and the dimensions of the ballparks all favored pitchers. During that same time, for 10 seasons (1964-73), Allen was the best hitter in baseball. If you’re into sabermetrics—or even if you’re not—let’s measure Allen’s effectiveness by a statistic many analysts swear by, OPS+, which stands for adjusted on-base percentage plus slugging and is calculated this way: OPS+ = 100 x (OBP/lgOBP*+SLG/lgSLG*- 1) [lgOBP and lgSlg are the league’s average for OBP and slugging] In OPS+, Dick Allen’s name is at the top from that time span. Here he is along with the next 10 best hitters: Dick Allen: 165 Henry Aaron: 161 Willie McCovey: 161 Frank Robinson: 161 Harmon Killebrew: 152 Willie Stargell: 152 Roberto Clemente: 151 Willie Mays: 148 Frank Howard: 147 Carl Yastrzemski: 145 Al Kaline: 140 From 1964 through 1973, Dick Allen was 4 points better than Henry Aaron, Willie McCovey and Frank Robinson and 20 points better than the No. 10 hitter on that list, Al Kaline. The only player in that group not in the Hall of Fame is Dick Allen. I don’t want to weigh you down with statistics, but let me throw in just a couple more. Orlando Cepeda was an almost exact contemporary of Allen who, like Allen, spent most of his career at first base. In 1999, Cepeda, whose reputation suffered for years after he was convicted of smuggling drugs (marijuana) and served 10 months in prison, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Cepeda hit 379 home runs in his career, 28 more than Allen, but he had to bat nearly 1,600 more times to do it. Another mostly first baseman of Allen’s era, Harmon Killebrew, had 573 home runs in 22 seasons. Allen outhit him .292 to .256, won three slugging titles to Killebrew’s one, and had more doubles and triples while batting about 1,800 fewer times. Enough numbers. I’m sure you get the message that there was something other than on-field performance that kept Dick Allen out of the Hall of Fame—and is still keeping him out. The answer can be found in an oft-quoted chapter from Bill James’ book on the Hall of Fame, “The Politics of Glory.” Allen, according to James, “did more to keep his teams from winning than anybody else who ever played major league baseball.” Every team Allen played for “degenerated into warring camps of pro-Dick Allen and anti-Dick Allen factions.”

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