Although the Hall of Fame still waits, one of the greatest athletes to play professional sports in Philadelphia is getting long-overdue recognition along Broad Street.
Phillies slugger Dick Allen will be featured on a 2,000-square-foot mural at 2221 S. Broad St., which shares a lot with the Wells Fargo bank near Wolf Street. Allen played more than 1,000 games in Phillies pinstripes and was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1964. He was a seven-time all-star throughout his career, which also included stops with the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics.
As a Phillie, Allen batted .290 with 204 doubles, 204 home runs, 655 RBI, a .371 on-base percentage and a .530 slugging percentage (.902 OPS) in 1,070 games. His slugging percentage is second-best in Phillies history, behind only Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (.553), and he ranks 10th in home runs. Allen’s No. 15 was retired at Citizens Bank Park during the 2020 season, shortly before he passed in December 2020.
“I know that he would be humbled and grateful for this mural,” said Richard Allen Jr., who attended the ceremony in memory of his father. “My father always referred to Philadelphia as his birthplace. He enjoyed playing for the Phillies and being with the Phillies. It brings my family entire great pleasure to be honored in this manner.”
The ceremony and mural design unveiling were held on Dec. 7, which was also the third anniversary of Allen’s passing. Joining Richard Allen Jr. at the ceremony were family members Eron “Button” Allen and widow Willa Allen, in addition to representatives from the Phillies, the city and Mural Arts Philadelphia.
“I recently had a chance to get a glimpse of the mural’s design and it was hard not to get emotional,” said Rob Holiday, Phillies Director of Amateur Scouting Administration. “I really got chills. It truly captures the essence of who he was. Yes, Dick was a tremendous athlete, but he was also, and continues to be an inspiration to so many young ball players. He faced adversity on and off the field and instead of giving up, he had the strength to challenge to status quo.”
Allen’s time in Philadelphia experienced some bumps in the road, to put it mildly. As the first black baseball superstar to play in Philadelphia, Allen was of often the target of racial remarks from teammates and fans, and sometimes was the target of objects thrown from the stands, forcing Allen to wear his batting helmet when he played in the field.
“I still can’t understand why Dick Allen, as great as he was, was treated the way he was treated in this city,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
Allen joined the Phillies front office in 1994 as a fan development representative and, later, a club ambassador, continuing to give back to the game he loved.
“Dick Allen was a role model and he created a legacy,” City Representative and South Philadelphia native Sheila Hess said. “This legacy will continue right in the heart of South Philadelphia. I live right down the street, so I’ll be driving by this location all the time, so I can’t wait to see the finale once the mural is created. This is extra special.”
Throughout the years, there has been an effort to have Allen inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as Allen has one of the highest slugging percentages of a player not in the Hall of Fame, despite playing the majority of his career in an era known for decreased offense. A recent Hall of Fame push saw Allen land just one vote short, earning 11 votes from the 16-member committee in both 2014 and 2021.
“Murals have a special way of capturing stories of our city to help us remember these stories for many years to come,” Kenney said. “In this case, this new mural will help us continue to share the story of a baseball great, especially with today’s baseball fans and community who may not have had a chance to see his greatness, but can learn about his legacy through this mural.”
Mural Arts Philadelphia assigned artist Ernel Martinez the honor of designing the mural, which is about 1 mile from Citizens Bank Park. Martinez has worked with Mural Arts Philadelphia for more than a decade. The Belize native who was raised in Los Angeles and Detroit studied art at the Pratt Institute and obtained his BFA from Kutztown University. In 2004, he received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania.
“It’s such an honor as an artist to play a small role in capturing his story and capturing his legacy and depicting it in a public space where the whole community and city can appreciate and recognize this man for what he did for the city,” Martinez said.
Allen’s family and city representatives helped paint the first brush strokes on the mural. Using best practices from Mural Arts, the mural will be painted on parachute cloth during the winter months with the help of the community, and later adhered to its permanent location. The project is expected to be completed around the start of the 2024 baseball season.
There’s only one thing missing.
“I’ll tell you right now, he belongs in the Hall of Fame,” Kenney said.