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SWINGING IN HIS OWN GROOVE
Roy Blount Jr.
September 10, 1973
When Dick Allen crashed, so did the White Sox, which tells a lot about this talented eccentric who says only his image has changed
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September 10, 1973

Swinging In His Own Groove

When Dick Allen crashed, so did the White Sox, which tells a lot about this talented eccentric who says only his image has changed

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The great majority of players in both leagues seem to find it meet and right that Allen has at last been taken unequivocally to the bosom of a team and a town. When you start talking to players about Allen, even his past grows rosier.

Bobby Valentine of the Angels, who was a struggling young Dodger the year Allen was in L A., says, "Dick was the only guy who had a word of encouragement for me. I had known other guys on the team five years and had only known Dick a few months. He talked to me daily about what I should do. I've seen him get arrogant, selfish and bullish at times, but almost invariably it was when reporters were in the clubhouse."

When Kansas City's Cookie Rojas was with Allen on the Phillies, Rojas called a team meeting in which players criticized Allen until he stomped out saying, "The hell with you guys." Now Rojas says, "I would pick Richie, all-round, over Clemente, Aaron or Mays."

So the matter of Allen's image may soon be resolved: Natural Allen, the Wampum Whomper, the players' and the people's choice. But Allen can't forget his life's troubled side.

He is sitting in his apartment, gloomy this evening because his leg is broken and he is supposed to be staying off it. He always seems to be a man with his forces mustered, ready to turn them loose, like a gunman listening for a slight sound to turn toward. When he feels unwanted, when the pitch is not coming in, he wants to move on. The team is on the road without him. "I've lost track of the days. I can't tell Friday from Tuesday," he says.

A notion strikes him. In a minute and a half he has thrown a can of hair spray into his briefcase, and with just the clothes he has on he is off in his Cadillac to the farm near Allentown, an all-night 750-mile drive with a broken leg. He smokes cigarettes, sips sangria, drinks coffee, eats hamburgers, drives steadily down I-80 and moves from topic to topic, often with passion.

"A white player, he can say he's got a stiff neck and he rests three days. A black player, like Carlos May, he can hardly walk and he plays. They don't want to hear it if we got a stiff neck. I don't know, some things I still don't understand....

"That new Black Hall of Fame, the one Willie Mays and Muhammad Ali are in, that would mean more to me than anything. The other one—they had to damn near hold court to decide whether Satchel Paige got in—I'm not too interested in that Hall of Fame....

"Everything depends on how strong your mind is. You got to stick to the basic things you wanted to do as a kid. The same things I enjoyed then are the same things I enjoy now: hanging around horses, playing ball....

"I've never voted. I don't know what Watergate is about....

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