Mark “Frog” Carfagno is clamoring to clap for Dick Allen one more time. The former Philadelphia Phillies’ grounds crew member began as a fan of the slugger before forging a nearly 40-year friendship with him and is going to bat for his hero in the hopes that the Historical Oversight and Veterans committees will grant him Hall of Fame status. Carfagno and roughly four dozen backers united Friday at Ashburn Field, 1954 Pattison Ave., to promote his prowess as a hitter and relay their regard for his humanity.
“We all know Dick Allen is not much of a self-promoter,” the Southwest Philly dweller said of the in-limbo figure, who logged 15 seasons in the majors, including nine campaigns with the Phils. “It’s up to us to be his voice and see to it that he receives his due.”
Many of Carfagno’s peers supported that sentiment by donning shirts bearing Allen’s no. 15 and the message “He won’t campaign so we’ll explain.” Their gathering coincided with last weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., an event they are yearning for their star to star in next summer. For Allen to become a diamond immortal, the 11-person Historical Oversight Committee, comprised of Baseball Writers’ Association of America constituents, must include his name on the Golden Era ballot for those who played primarily between 1947 and ’72, with Allen having suited up from ’63 to ’77. If he makes the list, his fate would become a December matter for the Veterans Committee, with a 75-percent vote needed for entry.
“I have so many memories of watching him crush home runs and of him being a great guy who loved the little people like me,” Carfagno said, drawing laughs when explaining how Allen, upon his ’75 return to Philadelphia after stints in St. Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago, responded to the worker’s “Welcome back” greeting with “Alright, Kotter, welcome back,” a nod to the sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter.” “I’d love to make more.”
Carfagno has especially courted companions for his thinking since February 2013 when Dick Allen Jr. notified him of the Golden Era opportunity. The Chicago White Sox, for whom his father won the 1972 American League MVP and home run crown, eventually decided not to back the powerful right-handed presence for enshrinement, with Carfagno learning, and ultimately agreeing, that the Phillies should lead the charge. As the administrator for the Dick Allen Belongs in the Hall of Fame Facebook group page, he has tirelessly touted its namesake’s talent, which few have refuted, and defended his character, which many have maligned.
“He had a big target on his back,” Carfagno said of the ’64 National League Rookie of the Year, whom many media sources deemed a disturbance to team chemistry, stances that a 55-page document proclaiming not only his statistical feats but also his cordial nature is seeking to silence. “He didn’t fit everyone’s taste, but he shouldn’t need to wait any longer to join other legends in Cooperstown.”
“People should look at the numbers more than the controversies,” Allen Jr. added of his patriarch, who, according to Phillies’ public address announcer Dan Baker, another Friday attendee, exerted a profound influence on Philadelphia’s ’60s identity as an African-American athlete. “I know there were moments when everything wasn’t blissful, but the figures are there, and, frankly, so was the commitment to being a great man. Will these efforts work? We certainly hope so.”
The elder Allen debuted in September ’63 as a highly scrutinized 21-year-old. In his first full campaign, he topped the senior circuit in extra base hits, runs, total bases and triples and amassed 201 hits. He earned three All-Star Game selections and belted 177 of his 351 home runs during his first sojourn with the Phils, adding 27 more over the ’75 and ’76 seasons. Critics contend his output cannot hold up against that of his peers, but the aforementioned report includes charts that champion Allen as a potent run producer on par with or ahead of such luminaries as Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew and Willie Mays.
“It was like watching God hit a baseball,” Richie Ashburn Jr., whose father played most of his Hall of Fame career as a Phillie, said of Allen, who engineered 10 years, including six local seasons, with at least 20 round trippers. “There was something about him that was really special.”
Despite Ashburn’s estimation of his credentials as celestial, the 72-year-old Wampum, Pa. native failed to garner more than 18.9 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote during his 15-year tenure on the Hall of Fame ballot. Regardless of tallies that judge Allen’s totals, Bill Jenkinson wants all parties to know that emotional evidence matters as much as quantifiable data.
“He picked me up out of my doldrums,” the baseball historian said. “He hit some shots. Isn’t that why we watch baseball, or even sports, to see something we’ve never seen before? Dick Allen was responsible for that for me.”
“I thought of him as regal and majestic,” film and television director and producer Mike Tollin, who fell for Allen as an 8-year-old fan in ’64 and who has deemed his dream project a part documentary, part feature about the hitter, said. “I started as a follower and them became a friend, and the second is even better than the first.”
Tollin spoke of the campaign as offering vindication because of its emphasis on ripping away perceptions of Allen as a troublemaker. Longtime sports writer Stan Hochman touched on that, too, when noting the fifth paragraph of the nomination paperwork asks scribes to detail their knowledge of a nominee’s personality.
“I think people have overlooked his contributions on and off the field,” the journalist said. “It’s time to correct that.”
“I believe he should be in,” Carfagno concluded. “He brought us so much joy. This is the least we could do.”
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