At the November baseball meetings in Honolulu the Sox executed one of the major off-season trades by getting Outfielder Ken Henderson from San Francisco along with Pitcher Steve Stone for Pitcher Tom Bradley, a 15-game winner in 1972. Henderson is an excellent fielder, he has fine base-running speed and he is that rarity, a switch-hitter with power. "I did not expect the Giants to give up on me," Henderson says. "I thought I fit into their plans for 1973, but when the trade came I was happy about it because I was going to a contender. If I hit in front of Allen I can use my base-running ability at times. And with Allen, Melton, Carlos May and myself in the lineup, we have a good set of bats."
"For years," says Manager Chuck Tanner, "our ball park was judged too big for a power team. Well, with the type of power we have now we've cut down the size of the park."
With Henderson hitting third and Melton fifth, Allen is the filling in an explosive sandwich. He may even better his league-leading 113 RBIs and 37 homers, because he will not be walked as often. Why walk Allen to face Melton? Allen's value has been further increased by the designated-hitter rule.
The White Sox are enjoying the new love-me, love-my-team Allen. Now beginning his 10th full season as a major-leaguer, Allen has reported for the start of a spring training for only the third time. He did it during his rookie spring with the Phillies in 1964 and again with the Dodgers in 1971. "I knew last September that I was coming to the start of our spring training," Allen explained one afternoon in Sarasota. "But every time I saw Chuck he kept telling me he didn't want me in spring training early. He said he wouldn't know what to do with me if I ever got here early."
A big smile crossed Allen's face. In the opening workouts he has been taking ground balls at second base and shortstop just for exercise and Tanner occasionally plays first base to catch Allen's throws. Tanner is also utilizing Allen's knowledge of base running to help other Chicago players. "We ran ourselves into a lot of mistakes on the bases last year," Allen said, "and those mistakes cost us some games. If I can help anybody just a little bit it will help us as a team."
When Allen was at Philadelphia, Gene Mauch, then the Phillie manager, said of him, "There are only two things you cannot get by Richie Allen. One is a high fastball and the other a fast highball." Following his fine season last year, however, Allen's image has changed remarkably. The day after his signing last week he walked over to two Chicago reporters and apologized because the story of his record salary broke first in Washington, where his adviser worked on the contract. "I'm sorry about what happened," Allen said. "It's embarrassing to me because you guys should never have been beaten on the story."
Later that day a television network man came to the White Sox training camp with a camera crew. Allen had just come from the field and was ready for a shower. His uniform was off and hanging in his locker, wrinkled and damp. "Would you put your uniform back on," the man asked, "and come out on the field? We just need a couple of minutes."
"The uniform's all wet," Dick said, "and I don't want to put it back on. I'll help you, but can't we do it in my street clothes?"
"I'm network out of New York," the TV man said.
"I'm Allen out of Pennsylvania," said Allen.