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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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White Sox crowds not only like Allen, they seem to be anxious not to offend him lest he move to some other city. In the clubhouse, which is a good loose one, Allen is popular and admired. Though he arrives at 6:30 or seven instead of 4:30 or five, he still has time to be fitted for some new hard-to-describe suits—his look includes a cinched-in waist, big collar points, maybe some leather flaps here and there and perhaps yellow snakeskin boots. Time to observe the handcuffing of the clubhouse boy with the Pinkerton man's cuffs. Time to hear from Third Baseman Bill Melton about a place where you can get a three-quarter-length seal coat for only $1,250. Time to slap each of a shipment of bats with his palm while holding them next to his ear. The harder the wood, the higher the ringing sound, Allen claims.

No one in years has denied that Allen puts in a full day's work once he is on the field, and his point regarding pregame drills has finally been taken. He believes in hours of purposeful batting practice, riding the ball to right field over and over, sometimes all alone in the batting cage at dawn. But he does it only until he gets his timing down and his calluses built up in the spring. After that he feels that batting practice and most other forms of messing around throw him off his game. He wants to bop in just in time to dress, maybe take a few grounders at shortstop, have a cigarette and then "Get it on," which is to say play ball.

This year he played with a broken thumb and with one eye closed by a sty. Late in June in Anaheim he leaped after a wide throw right into the path of former college fullback Mike Epstein running to first. There was a terrible crunch and Allen, having already left his feet, went flying. He got up and stayed in to make a remarkable stop and a whirling throw on a grounder far to his right. When the inning was over Tanner had to force him to go see the trainer. He had two hairline fractures of the left leg.

As the White Sox dressed after the game Allen returned from the hospital on crutches, to cries of "He's coming back! He's coming back!" As he sat on his stool he was surrounded by 30 people. Tanner and Trainer Charlie Saad knelt at his feet and undressed him.

"You have to go back to Chicago," said Tanner.

Allen said too many other people were hurt. "I've got to play tomorrow."

Wilbur Wood pushed through the crowd, took Allen's head in the crook of his arm and whispered something into his ear. Allen laughed. Outfielder Pat Kelly said Allen could return to Chicago because he and Carlos May were going to take up the slack.

"Now I know I can't go," said Allen.

Kelly began dancing around the stool with his dukes up. "Now I got you where I want you. Get out here, bum."

Allen punched Kelly in the stomach with his crutch and limped into the shower. Five weeks later he returned to the lineup and went 3 for 4. He then pinch-hit twice before his painful leg sidelined him again. Now he is out for the season and the Sox are far out of the race although they trailed by just one game the day of his injury.

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