Other hitters use a 32- to 34-ounce bat that they can whip around, or maybe a 38-ouncer that they choke up on and shove out into the path of the ball. Allen's bat looks big enough to walk to the plate and hit a single by itself—it weighs 40 to 42 ounces—and he holds it right down on the end.
Some hitters are loosey-goosey at the plate, some coiled tight. Allen, standing right-handed, shifting his weight from foot to foot under the slightly bobbing head of his huge vertical bat, is both. Un-composed, moving within his stance like heavy liquid in a glass that has just been set down, he is getting ready to reach way back into the depths of his wheelhouse, as they call it, for the baseball ultimate in foot-pounds per instant. Allen once hit five center-field home runs in five days, the shortest of which went 430 feet. He has hit home runs estimated at up to 600 feet. Off-balance, he once hit a low changeup 500 feet.
"I saw him hit a line drive into the second deck at Busch Stadium which surely would have killed anyone if it hit them," says Minnesota's Larry Hisle. "It bounced off the glass in the Stadium Club and everyone stopped eating there for a long time."
"He hit a ball to center field in Dodger Stadium that took about three seconds to get out of the park at the 410-foot mark," says Bobby Darwin of the Twins. "It was like watching an Indianapolis race car."
"I think Dick probably hits the ball harder than anyone in the world," says Baltimore's Boog Powell.
None of which is to suggest that Allen is just a muscle man. Pitchers agree that he is smart, knows what they are trying to do to him, is liable to hit any pitch and goes for the kind of hit that is strategically called for. He will decoy you by looking so bad on a pitch that you throw it again—and he is laying for it. He can also demoralize you with his casualness. When Gary Gentry was breaking in with the Mets, Allen got a hit off him while talking to the New York bench.
Allen fields, runs, sacrifices himself to advance the runner, hits with power to all fields, talks to the pitcher, teaches young players how to hit, persuades Manager Chuck Tanner to make an innovative change in infield strategy. He is, in sum, both a natural player and a finished one. "He is the closest thing to being a perfect ballplayer that I have ever seen," says Boston's Luis Aparicio.
In other words, Allen is a wily but unsurpassedly powerful spray hitter. A team player who has bounced around. He is a mentor to the young, a seasoned veteran whom managements have seen as a discipline problem. The more you learn about Allen from outside sources, the more he swims before you.
So it is necessary to figure out Allen from the inside. Fortunately, although he has no blandly cooperative manner to trot out for constant interviews, once he opens up he is an unguarded, persuasive expositor of how his life looks to him. He has a staunch sense of what is right for him. That sense, along with people's resistance to it, has been the source of his tribulations.
"We can't have a different set of rules for everybody" is one of the laws of baseball, as sacred as the reserve clause that forces a player to go wherever he is assigned, traded or sold by management. "I don't know a different system," says Allen blandly. "If I did I'd be front-office material." But he is convinced he knows how he works best in his own and the team's interests. He believes the team ought to let him work that way. He also feels, as an enterprising American workingman, that if he is unhappy with a company, such as the Phillies, he ought not to have to stay with it until the company sees fit to send him away.