In a new series being introduced here at the Bell called “10 questions with…“, I’ll be interviewing various individuals regarding the Philadelphia Phillies. The interviews will take place in a Q&A format where I ask each of them 10 questions involving themselves and the ball club.
In this first of the series the interviewee is Mark Carfagno. Those who follow the Phillies on a regular basis on social media should be familiar with him by now. Mark is perhaps the leading individual in supporting the effort to get Phillies Wall of Famer Dick Allen elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. As you can see, Mark was extremely generous with his answers. I think you will enjoy his takes on the Dick Allen-Hall of Fame situation greatly.
Allen played with the Phillies from 1963-69 and again in 1975-76. During his first stint with the club he was one of the top young players in the game. The 1964 NL Rookie of the Year, he was a three-time NL All-Star and consistent NL MVP contender during the 1960’s. During his second stint he helped the Phillies return to the postseason and consistent contending status.
You’ll note that I cheated about, making #3 and #10 a multi-question item. So, sue me.
10 Questions: Mark Carfagno
1. How long have you been actively involved in the Dick Allen HOF effort, and what first got you interested?
MC: I started writing letters to the Hall of Fame in 1982, which was five years after Dick retired and his first year on the BBWAA, or baseball writer’s, official HOF ballot. After noticing that Dick wasn’t generating many votes but had enough to keep him on the ballot for 14 of his 15 years, I stopped writing letters around 1990.
Dick never spoke to the media and they were the ones who were voting. However, I knew that after his 15 years on the BBWAA ballot ended in 1997 that he had a more of a realistic chance on the Veteran’s Committee ballot.
I resumed writing letters to Cooperstown in 1997 and mailed them to Hall of Fame players. Can’t recall which players, but they were the primary voters. It was hard to keep track of the Veteran’s Committee voting process since it changed so many times, but I continued to send letters and when the results were read, Dick still hadn’t received much love.
Then one day, I can’t recall the year but I would guess the late 2000’s, I received a phone call from Stan Hochman of the Daily News. He knew I had been pushing for Allen. He asked me “Where will you be tomorrow, and can I reach you at this number?” I said that I will be home and then asked him why? He wanted to make sure I was home the next day. He then said “Go look on your computer and go the Hall of Fame website.” So, I looked and the headline on the HOF site read “Dick Allen expected to be named to the Hall of Fame tomorrow”. Geez, I was somewhat shocked, then became very excited and couldn’t sleep all night.
Then, BOOM! The results were announced and Dick Allen had nowhere near the number of votes needed. Finally, I called the Hall of Fame and spoke to Craig Muder, who was in PR. He said “Yes, Dick Allen was a great player. But remember the Hall of Fame is an exclusive club and only one-percent of all players who played the game are enshrined.”
I later found out that was the generic answer, whether it came from Muder, then Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, or Jane Forbes Clark, whose family owns the Museum and is the main spokesperson. Frankly, I got tired of hearing that answer and seeing emails from others who wrote in support of Allen where the response was the same.
In 2013, it all changed. I received a phone call from Richard Allen Jr. in February of that year asking me to help him get his father into the Hall of Fame. But more importantly, he wanted to clear his father’s so-called ‘bad boy’ image.
Richard has a son, Dick’s grandson, Richard III or ‘Tre’, as he is called by his family and friends. ‘Tre’ was a good athlete at a high school in Williamsport, PA and was hearing negative comments from fans at his baseball and basketball games. Fans kept referring to his grandfather, saying he was just like him. Lazy, bad person, and not a team player. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Tre’s friends said to him that they had heard his grandfather was a great baseball player, but he was an asshole and not a nice person.
Now, Richard Jr. knew that all of the things being said to his son about his dad were false. So, he wanted me help him clear everything up. Richard is somewhat shy, like his dad, and figured since I worked at Veteran’s Stadium for 33 years, was a good friend of his dad, knew plenty of influential people, and had lots of connections in baseball that I could really help him out.
Moving forward, Dick was going to again be eligible on the Golden Era ballot in December of 2014. We had almost two years on the campaign trail. The first year of 2013 was very slow. But I did reach out to some former players and had them write testimonials on Dick Allen’s behalf.
Then in March of 2014, the most impactful thing happened. I received a phone call from Ted Silary, the former High School Sports writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. I had been working with Ted as a statistician and contributor to his website for almost 20 years. He told me that St. John Neumann Regional Academy of Williamsport PA was going to play Math Civics and Science High School from Philadelphia in a PA state semi-final playoff basketball game. One of the players on a 30-0 St. John Neumann team was Richard Allen III.
Ted told me to call Tom Mahon from the Daily News who wrote a column called “High and Inside” consisting mostly of tidbits from different sports. It was the first thing you would notice if you turned to the last page of the newspaper. With the Daily News being a tabloid, I always read starting from the back page.
Anyway, Mahon did write something about Richard Allen III, and mentioned that Dick Allen was also a great basketball player at Wampum High school in Western PA. Mahon had quotes from Richard Allen Jr campaigning for his dad, and it also mentioned my name along with my “Dick Allen Belongs in the Hall of Fame” Facebook group.
After that small piece was published and people read it either in the paper or online, my computer, cell phone, and home phone all exploded. The Facebook page, which had about 50 followers, immediately jumped to about 2,000 within a few days.
A friend of mine, Joe Ferry, who helped me with my book “Hardball & Hardship” published in 2009, volunteered to be the PR director. Along with Joe, others jumped on board the effort. Those included baseball historians, members of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), media members. Even former players, coaches, managers, front office people, and some owners got involved. People who still are active in baseball now but whose faces I have never seen wanted to be involved.
2. From your perspective, what makes Dick Allen a Baseball Hall of Famer?
MC: First of all, Dick Allen is a great person who I have known since 1975 and also know his entire family. So, to me he’s a Hall of Fame person. There are so many baseball reasons as well.
He played the game harder between the white lines than the other 17 people who took the field. He was an excellent and smart base runner. He played smart baseball, sacrificing himself by moving a runner by hitting to the opposite field. He took pitches to let the next hitter see what the pitcher had and – hard to believe for a slugger – he sacrificed bunted on many occasions.
Allen was a five-tool player. In his first game as a rookie in 1964 the Phillies had him play third base, a position he never played before. He is still known for his power, especially for the balls he hit over the roof in left field at old Connie Mack Stadium and out into the streets of North Philadelphia.
Talk to anyone who ever watched him play, say the name Richie or Dick Allen, and 99.9% of the time they will say “I was there when he hit a ball over the Coke sign!“, or “I saw him hit one over the big scoreboard in right-center field!“
Now understand, he did have great power and hit 351 career home runs. But for a power hitter to have a lifetime average of .292 to me was unprecedented. Only the real greats of the game hit for power and a higher average: Aaron .305, Mays .302, and Mantle .298 for batting averages. To reiterate, he played the game the right way. If he wanted to just swing for home runs, he would have hit over 500 of them.
Now everyone wants to know about the numbers. One number that makes him a Hall of Famer almost immediately is his career 156 OPS+ which ranks him in a tie for 21st place all -time with Mays. Behind him are most of his peers who are already in the Hall of Fame, including Aaron 155, Frank Robinson 154, and the trio of Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, and Willie Stargell all with career 147 OPS+ marks. Others like Harmon Killebrew, Orlando Cepada, Ernie Banks, and Ron Santo are not even in the OPS+ conversation because they are so far behind Allen. From 1964 through the 1973 season which is a full decade, Allen had a 165 OPS+, the best in all of baseball and ahead of 17 future Hall of Famers.
His Offensive WAR was 68.3 for the 11 seasons from 1964 through 1974. That ranked him first among all position players. Allen’s ‘Black Ink Test Score‘, which measures how often a player led the league in a variety of important stats, is 27 and ranks him 70th all-time. Black Ink gives points for leading the league in certain categories. That score is better than his contemporaries such as Banks, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Johnny Bench, Billy Williams, and Willie Stargell, each of whom is in the Hall of Fame. Allen’s career .912 OPS is 55th and his .534 slugging percentage is 42nd all-time.
Allen was the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year and the 1972 AL Most Valuable Player. His performance in that 1972 season is often credited for saving the White Sox franchise from relocating to another city. He was a seven-time All-Star and hit third or fourth in most of those All-Star Game batting orders.
In the new Relative Slugging metric, since 1901 he ranks 14th all-time with a 139.6% score. There are only three players from his era ahead of him: Mantle, Aaron and Mays. We talked about his base running earlier. Did you know that he hit seven inside-the-park home runs during his career, ranking him 4th in his era? Only speedsters Brock, Clemente, and Willie Wilson were in front of him. Since MLB required all teams to put fences in the outfield in the early 1900’s, Allen is one of just two players to leg out two inside-the-park homers in a single game.
Finally, let me say this. The question always asked is how did ‘Player X’ do versus his peers? As you can see, Allen did pretty damn well. Also, how good was ‘Player X’ during his peak? Now, a peak is usually considered in the range of six-to-eight seasons. Dick Allen had an 11-year peak. As former teammate Bill Melton, a 1971 AL All-Star who hit 30+ homers five times and 30+ twice, said “Dick Allen dominated both leagues, and to me that’s a Hall of Fame player.” I couldn’t agree with him more.
3. Do you have regular contact with Dick himself? If not, have you tried? If so, can you elaborate on any interesting meetings or conversations? What is his own personal take, as you understand it, on how much the HOF would matter to him?
MC: Dick is having some health issues. He won’t tell me that, but his family does. He is getting better every day according to his family. He calls occasionally, but is now into texting, so we do plenty of that.
I’ve had some heavy or deep conversations with him which I would like to keep between us. As for his take on the Hall of Fame, he said that those who he played with and against know how good of a ballplayer he was, and that’s good enough for him. However, I know that he would be very proud to be up on that stage in Cooperstown with the same players who speak of his greatness.
4. What do you think is the primary reason that Dick Allen has not already been elected to the HOF? Any secondary reasons?
MC: As I said earlier, he had a bad rapport with the media and very seldom spoke them. So, if they were on the fence as to whether or not to vote for him they would vote no. Also, the stigma placed on him by Bill James that he was a cancer, bad teammate, lost more games than he won, and James’ infamous quote; “If Dick Allen’s a Hall of Famer then I am a lug nut.“
Interesting side bar here. After the vote in 2014, Dick asked me who Bill James was and why would he say those things if they had never spoken to one another? Dick said to me “I would really like to speak to him and find out.” So, I tweeted James about Allen and mentioned what I had just said about meeting each other. James tweeted back saying “You pay for the air fare and I’ll pay for the meal.” I then responded “Are you serious about this?” Needless to say, he never responded. Bill James wanted no parts of Dick Allen.
WRITER’S NOTE: If Bill James ever reads this and both men are still physically capable, I would be happy to pay for that air fare AND the lunch, as long as I can be there to document it.
5. Do you have a favorite Dick Allen story or anecdote that most fans might not be very familiar with?
MC: In 1976, the Phillies were contending for the NL East Division championship. I guess it was the end of August and they had a good lead on the second place team. Then they started to lose and talk of the 1964 collapse was brought up by the media.
In September, the Phillies called up a prospect outfielder who was known for his glove and speed, Rick Bosetti, from the minor leagues. Phillies manager Danny Ozark put Bosetti in for a pinch-runner and he got picked off first base in a crucial situation on the road. When the Phillies returned home, Bosetti again was put in as a pinch runner late in a game and was picked off first base once again. Allen was not playing that day, and what I witnessed next tells you what kind of person he is.
After he was picked off, Bosetti walked into the clubhouse crying like a baby. Dick saw him crying and immediately grabbed Bosetti and walked him back to the maintenance tool room. He had Bosetti sit in a lounge chair and Dick sat on a stool. He spoke to and comforted that young man until the wee hours of the morning.
The next morning, “Dick Allen Leaves the Ballpark Early” blared out in a newspaper headline. I couldn’t believe it. Dick never said a word to defend himself. But that’s an example of the stigma placed on him for years. “Baseball’s Bad Boy”: it still haunts him today.
6. Allen was a young star with the ill-fated 1964 Phillies team. Do you have any personal memories of that club, and if so, can you share a couple regarding those final weeks?
MC: I was 11-years-old in 1964. They were a team with some young stars including Dick, who was then called “Richie Allen” and who was named NL Rookie of the Year. The season was highlighted when Jim Bunning threw a perfect game on Father’s Day against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
Then of course the great collapse. The Phillies held a 6 1/2-game lead with just 12 games to play. I had my World Series tickets. There was no way the Phillies were not going to the World Series. Well, so we thought.
I remember the first game of the 10-game losing streak. Chico Ruiz of the Cincinnati Reds stole him against Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey with slugger Frank Robinson at-bat. Mahaffey was so rattled that he threw a wild pitch and the Phillies lost 1-0. It may have been one of the dumbest steals of home in baseball history. You just don’t steal home with Robinson at the plate and hitting over .300, but Ruiz did.
What fans don’t know is that Reds manager Freddy Hutchinson was sick and was replaced by Dick Sisler in mid-season. Did Sisler tell Ruiz to steal? Because Hutchinson wouldn’t have. Or did Ruiz run on his own? I don’t think that question has ever been answered. But if I had to bet, he did it on his own.
I attended the game on Sunday September 27th against the Milwaukee Braves. The Phillies lost their seventh in a row 14-8 that day despite Johnny Callison hitting three home runs. After that game it was transistor radio time for me. Games eight through 10 of the losing streak were on week nights. The radio was near my pillow every night.
After falling out of first place the Phillies traveled to Crosley Field in Cincinnati for a two-game series. Game 161 of the 1964 season was on a Friday night. So, my friends and I gathered around the radio and listened to the game. We were also hoping that the Saint Louis Cardinals, who along with the Reds had pulled ahead of the Phillies, would lose to a very bad New York Mets team.
The Cardinals and Mets played a three-game series while the Phillies had an off-day scheduled on Saturday. That seemed rather strange, no game on a Saturday. If my memory serves me correct, the Mets beat the Cardinals on Friday and Saturday. The Phillies won their game on Friday and were just one game out of first place.
The Phillies game on Sunday ended before the Cardinals game, and they crushed the Reds by 10-0 with Bunning throwing a shutout and Allen hitting two home runs. That left the Phillies a half-game behind Saint Louis. Sadly, the Cardinals overcame an early 3-2 deficit to win their game by 12-5, clinching the National League pennant. If the Cardinals had lost the Phillies, Reds, and Cardinals would have finished in a three-way tie for the pennant.
As for Dick Allen, I believe he hit over or close to .400 during the last dozen games, so the fans couldn’t blame him. Also well documented is that Phillies manager Gene Mauch used Bunning and Chris Short every other day as starting pitchers. There is some confusion there. People often say Bunning-Short, Bunning-Short, which indicated that they were the only starters Mauch used. That is false. Mauch used a three-man rotation, Bunning and Short pitching two of three and another starter slotted in between.
7. What did you think of Dick’s return to the club late in his career and his contributions to the club winning the 1976 NL East crown?
MC: Rumors started to swirl that Dick may return to the Phillies after refusing to go to Atlanta after being traded to the Braves by the Chicago White Sox. Those of us on the Veteran’s Stadium grounds crew who knew Dick from Connie Mack Stadium days were praying that he would return. Just what the Phillies needed, one more slugger to protect Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski in the lineup.
Dick was living in Perkasie, PA at the time, which was not too far from The Vet. Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter along with Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, and Dave Cash made several trips to the Allen farm in Perkasie to convince him to comeback.
What most didn’t know, and that included the other teams in the National League, was that Allen had torn his Achilles the year before and it didn’t heal properly. He told the visiting Phillies contingent that he couldn’t put weight on his right leg, which took away his power and affected his swing. Allen said that he would take some batting practice at an unknown location, with rumor holding that he did it at his farm.
Finally, he agreed to return in May and the Phillies fans who had booed him out of town were now elated that he was returning. Did Allen help the Phillies win the NL East in 1976? You’re damn right he did! One of the reasons he was brought back was to mentor Schmidt, who was very sensitive to the fans booing him. Who better to mentor someone about playing through those boos than Dick Allen?
The two men also discussed hitting for hours at a time. Dick always found time to speak to the younger players, especially pitcher Larry Christenson who told me that Dick took him under his wing, especially when on the road.
Also, that first season back in 1975 was when I established my relationship with Allen. He found out that I had lost my parents at a young age and spoke to me for a few hours. He said that if I ever needed anything to please not hesitate to ask him. “If I find out you didn’t ask me, I will kick your butt“, he said .
He knew that when the team was on the road, that I enjoyed taking trips to the South Jersey shore. He would slip me a few bucks and tell me to have fun. He has often said of his relationship with me “I helped raise that young man.” I went to his home in Perkasie plenty of times. Evn stayed overnight and had some great home-cooked meals by his first wife, Barbara, who I also still stay in touch with today. Again, if that’s a bad person, then there obviously is something wrong.
8. Do you have any favorite books or articles about Dick Allen from other writers that you would recommend to those interested?
MC: There are several books which I have on Allen. To say that I have a favorite wouldn’t be fair, since I know the three writers. Tim Whitaker who wrote “Crash: The Life and times of Dick Allen“, Mitch Nathanson who wrote “God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen” and Bill Kashatus who wrote both “September Swoon: Richie Allen, the ’64 Phillies, and Racial Integration” and “Dick Allen, The Life and Times of a Baseball Immortal: An Illustrated Biography” are three that I recommend.
What I also like reading are the stories that other players tell about playing with Dick Allen. How he would call the pitches from the dugout, or how he would often say things to a teammate like “I will hit one out” or “If that pitcher on the mound throws me a curve ball on the first pitch as he did the last time I faced him, I will hit it over the roof.” Of course, he usually then kept his promise.
There’s a story that Tony Taylor tells which is really incredible. Dick told Taylor and anyone who would listen that he would hit three home runs against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in the last game of the 1968 season. To find the story go to www.dickallenbelongs.wordpress.com and search for ‘Our Presentation’, which we sent to the voters in 2014 and will update it this year. Then look for ‘The Predictor’, which is Taylor’s testimonial. One really has to feel their way around our website to find things.
9. What are some of the ways that fans can participate in the effort to get Dick Allen into the HOF? Sites that you are running on social media and other places to follow.
MC: Well, I mentioned the website, and it contains plenty of information needed if a person really wants to help out. Very popular is our Facebook Group page as well. If not a member just request to join there and one of the administrators will accept you.
Just like yourself, others do ask how they can help, mostly on Facebook. Initially we told everyone if you wanted to write a letter to the Hall of Fame in support of Allen, feel free to do so. However, what I tell them now is to post a comment in the Facebook Group. If it is something worthy for the Golden Days Committee to read, I will copy and paste it, and then send it to Cooperstown. We just sent our first round of comments and statistical information to the New President of the Hall of Fame Tim Mead.
If one wishes to send something themselves they can do so by mailing: Tim Mead, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, 25 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY, 13326, Attention: Golden Days Committee.
10. Have you continued to follow the Phillies over the years, and do you follow the Phillies today? If so, give me a couple of your favorite players and what you like about them.
MC: I do follow the Phillies and I am looking forward to this year, primarily because of the hiring of Joe Girardi as their new manager. He seems to be more of an old-school baseball man rather than using only analytics.
As for having a favorite player, I would say it is J.T. Realmuto. He does everything professionally, from calling a game to throwing runners out. His offense for a catcher makes him one of, if not the best, catchers in baseball. Hopefully the Phillies will agree on a long-term deal because players like Realmuto don’t come around too often.
Of course, how can you not like Bryce Harper? What a great athlete and competitor. I thought he would hit more home runs since he was now playing in the homer-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Baseball is a game of adjustments, and I’ll give him a mulligan for 2019 since he was playing for a new team.
The game of baseball is simple. To win, you need good pitching. The acquisition of Zack Wheeler should help tremendously. I thought the Phillies would acquire another arm as a mid-level starter but they did not.
I like that they loaded up their bullpen with plenty of guys to start off spring training, hoping that some of them will shine. I believe they will catch a break with the bullpen. I read an article a few years ago that said there is no science more inexact than predicting the role of a bullpen pitcher. In other words, how most relief pitchers will perform from year-to-year. Those inconsistencies are really significant.
I feel this year the Phillies will get lucky with their bullpen and compete for the NL East championship or at least a Wild Card spot. The new manager will make a big difference.
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MORE ON DICK ALLEN HERE AT ‘THE BELL’
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11.28.14 – Philography: Dick Allen