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Then Dick wanders off to the subject of being the designated hitter. "I can't take it," he says. "You hit, it's over, sit down. You get stiff, you run in the tunnel to get loose. You smoke cigarette after cigarette, drink 19 cups of coffee. Get your heart beating again, hit again, sit back down...."
When not batting he would rather be at first, losing himself in the game and distracting runners. "I talk to everybody. 'How you doing, how many kids you got? Oh, two girls and...HEY [ Allen the raconteur dives across the carpet, doing his impression of a runner picked off through inattention] damn it, Richie!' "
It is too bad he does not do an opening monologue along these lines on his local two-hour TV talk show. He is good at chatting with sports guests on camera when he is in the mood, but he is even better at filling his living room with an evocation of what it is like to play ball. He jumps around, slipping in and out of the past, the present, different cities, the pitcher's mind and his own. He swings an imaginary bat hard and throws in the necessary sound effects.
"Yeah, I try to go down the line when I'm on base, distract the pitcher, but you got to know when to do it. Not like when Pat Kelly used to get on." Allen drops into an impeccable radio announcer's voice as he talks about his base-stealing teammate. " 'Joe Blow starts his wind-up. He comes set. He throws over to first, Kelly's back.'
"Meantime, I'm waiting to hit. Joe Blow don't want to bring it to me!
" 'He comes set. It's an idle toss to first base, Kelly's back!'
"Meantime I'm at the plate." Allen, the hitter, is agitated, coiled, waiting to explode. The broadcaster oozes on.
" 'He comes set. We'll pause in the action a few moments while Joe Blow throws over to first and Kelly's back.'
"Meantime I'm waiting to hit."
That is the kind of thing Allen hates, having things come between him and his cuts. He prefers the problem of hitting against a man such as Bob Gibson. Allen goes into a pumping, kicking wind-up. "A man like Gibson, he says, 'All right big guy, here it is. Pschoo!' He's challenging you. Pschoo! Why hold on to the ball? Why sneak it in? That's not what the good dudes do—Koufax, Gibson. 'Here's the heat,' they say. 'Here, you want me? Pschoo!' "