Born March 8, 1942 in Wampum, Pa., Allen signed with the Phillies as an amateur free agent prior to the 1960 season for a reported $70,000, a huge sum at the time. After three full seasons in the minors where he averaged 100 RBI per year, Allen debuted with the Phillies as a late-season call-up on Sept. 3, 1963. By the following season, Allen won the Phillies’ starting job at third base – a position he had rarely played.
Allen made 41 errors at third base in 162 games in 1964. But it was his record-setting hitting that powered his run to the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award. Allen led the NL with 125 runs scored – tied for 10th among rookies in MLB history and topped only twice since 1964 – 13 triples and 352 total bases while hitting .318 with 38 doubles, 29 home runs and 91 RBI.
Allen led the Phillies throughout the summer, with only an historic late-season slide preventing Philadelphia from winning the pennant.
Over the next five seasons, Allen established himself as one of the game’s most dangerous hitters, earning three All-Star Game berths while receiving Most Valuable Player Award votes in three seasons. From 1964-69 – during one of the most pitching-dominated eras in big league history – Allen averaged better than 29 home runs and 90 RBI per season. He famously used a 40-ounce bat, driving balls mammoth distances with his unique bat speed.
After a handful of on-field and off-the-field incidents, however, Allen was dealt to the Cardinals following the 1969 season – a trade famous for sending Curt Flood to the Phillies, a move that resulted in Flood bringing an antitrust suit against MLB. Allen was named to the 1970 All-Star Game while hitting 34 home runs and driving in 101 runs that year, then was traded to the Dodgers prior to the 1971 season. With Los Angeles, Allen hit .295 with 23 homers and 90 RBI before being sent to the White Sox in a deal that brought the Dodgers pitcher Tommy John.
In Chicago under manager Chuck Tanner, Allen flourished – leading the American League with 37 homers, 113 RBI and 99 walks in 1972 and earning the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. He appeared headed toward an even better season in 1973 when he suffered a broken leg, ending his campaign with 16 home runs and 41 RBI in just 72 games.
“I have found a home here in Chicago,” Allen told the New York Times in 1972. “It really has made me feel like a human being.”
In 1973, Allen made a reported $250,000 as the highest paid player in the game. He again led the AL in home runs in 1974 with 32 despite leaving the White Sox in a dispute with two weeks left in the season.
The White Sox then sold Allen’s contract to the Braves, but Allen opted to retire. He returned, however, a month into the 1975 season with the Phillies and played another three seasons, ending his career after a stint with the Athletics in 1977.
“He was a gem,” Tanner told USA Today Baseball Weekly in 1995. “He was a leader, like having a manager on the field. I never had a problem with him.”
His final totals: a .292 batting average with 351 home runs and 1,119 RBI in 15 seasons, with a .378 on-base percentage and a .534 slugging percentage. He led his league in slugging percentage three times and on-base percentage twice while earning seven All-Star Game selections.
“I’m satisfied with my career,” Allen said in 1995. “If I had it to do over again, I’d do it the same way.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum