By the time the boozy Wilson roomed with Allen—in 1934—the only hacking he did was in his sleep. "Hack kept me up all night," Allen grumbles. "It was as much the stench as the noise. He coughed beer fumes!"
Allen dreamed up All-Star Baseball toward the end of his playing days. He peddled his spinning wheel of fortune all over toyland. Everyone passed. Finally, he got an audience with Don Mazer, the president of Cadaco, a Chicago-based toy-maker. Mazer pounded a fist on his desk. "That's an idea!" he said. "Let's do it." They've been doing it now for 50 years, updating the player discs every season. The first version sold for $1.25. It's up to $13 now and almost a million have been sold. Allen says he earns about $5,000 a year in royalties.
Allen got another chance to advise a president in 1947, when he coached Yale to the semifinals of the first NCAA College World Series. The Bulldog first baseman was a 23-year-old war vet named George (Poppy) Bush. Allen counseled Bush to lay off inside fastballs until he had two strikes. "I taught George the virtues of waiting," Allen says. Bush may have found that comforting during his eight years as Ronald Reagan's backup. The pre-Desert Storm Bush was renowned for his defense. "He caught all sorts of throws," Allen recalls.
Though Bush sends his old coach a card every Christmas, Allen refuses to vote for him. "No way!" he snarls. "I'm a Democrat, and George knows it." Which is not to say Allen thinks Bush is unqualified for government work. Back when the Senate was debating whether to confirm Bush as head of the CIA, someone telephoned Allen.
"If George could fathom my sign system at Yale," Allen told the caller, "he knows enough to be a spy."