Phillies retire Allen's number, hope Hall of Fame nod is next

Washington (AFP) –

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The Philadelphia Phillies made Dick Allen the seventh player to have his jersey retired by the club on Thursday, and they hope the Baseball Hall of Fame takes the hint.

Allen's number 15 jersey was retired by the Phillies before their game against the World Series champion Washington Nationals, and on the 57th anniversary of Allen's major league debut with the club in 1963.

Allen, 78, played nine of his 15 major league seasons with the Phillies.

He was the National League rookie of the year in 1964, and a seven-time All-Star who batted .290 with 204 home runs, 655 runs-batted-in, 204 doubles, a .371 on-base percentage and a .530 slugging percentage in nine-seasons with the Phillies.

He rose to stardom despite facing vitriol from some of his own team's fans, who harassed him with racial epithets and even threw things at him on the field, prompting him to begin wearing a helmet when he played defense.

“It makes the extraordinary achievement even more special when you consider the circumstances, the conditions under which he had to live and perform,” John Middleton, managing partner of the Phillies, said, adding that retiring Allen's number was "a very big deal for the Phillies, for Philadelphia and, I hope, even for baseball."

Former teammates on hand for the ceremony included current Phillies manager Joe Girardi.

Allen, 78, offered his "biggest thanks" to Middleton, who reversed former Phillies policy of not retiring a player's jersey if he wasn't in the Hall of Fame.

"Should this moment have occurred years ago? Unquestionably yes," Middleton said. "Dick, your brilliance has compelled me to change our long-standing policy. Today, the Phillies organization is doing and saying something to correct what is historically not right, not fair, not just.

“You richly deserve this honor, Dick. You have earned it -- and no one can ever take this away from you."

Allen, who said he was pleased to think of what the honor would mean to his mother and the rest of his family, may yet make it into baseball's shrine in Cooperstown, New York.

He'll be eligible when the Golden Days Committee has its next vote in 2021.

"Do I believe in my heart that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Yes," Middleton said. "Do I hope that someday he will be elected? Yes. I would like to see that happen while he's still alive and can enjoy the honor."