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Hall of Fame campaign comes up just short for Allen

Former Phillies great one vote away from Golden Era induction

SAN DIEGO -- The announcement was straight and to the point. The Golden Era Committee didn't elect a single player on Monday to be inducted in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

In the audience, Dick Allen Jr. sat numbed by disappointment. Months of rising optimism abruptly ended with a few words. Then, another gutshot came before he could fully process that news. His father, Dick Allen, along with former Twins great Tony Oliva, had come up one vote short of election. One lousy vote.

And the disappointment didn't belong to just Allen. It was Mark "Frog" Carfagno, the former Phillies groundskeeper who threw his heart and soul into the campaign to get the slugger onto the ballot and then worked tirelessly to educate the voters. It was Dr. David Fletcher, president and founder of the Chicago Baseball Museum who added his support from the White Sox precincts. It was filmmaker Mike Tollin, who is working on a documentary about the prodigious home run hitter. It was a half-dozen true believers who made the trip to the Winter Meetings, only to have their hopes dashed.

So, of course they were downcast. But when the chagrin subsides, they should realize that their efforts were as successful as they could possibly be without actually having their man elected.

Think about it. In 15 years of eligibility by the Baseball Writers Association, Allen peaked at 18.9 percent of the vote in 1996. On Monday, he was named in 68.8 percent of the 16 ballots cast, just short of the 75 percent needed for induction.

One of the voters this year was Jim Bunning. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996 ... after coming up one vote short in his previous year of eligibility.

Beyond that, the widely held view of Allen as a talented player who was somehow a troublemaker or a malcontent seems to have undergone a startling transformation. At least a half-dozen articles in major publications or websites appeared in the last few weeks, looking beyond the old reputation and trumpeting his worthiness.

"It's opened up some eyes to some things that he dealt with. Outside forces. That's one of the big things, but a lot of people overlook that," Allen Jr. said. "They say all ballplayers have something, but I've always said not many players had to deal with it at home by having to wear a helmet. You would think that treatment would be on the road."

"It opens up some things people didn't see for a long time. Having to do your job at the highest level with outside [distractions]. Maybe some people don't see that. They just see him at the ballpark. I mean, everyone has personal issues at home, and then you have to go do your work. But when you're facing guys who are Hall of Fame-status players, you have to be up there."

Said Fletcher: "It recasts Dick's image. It rebrands Dick Allen. A writer in The New York Times put it best. It's about perception and forgiveness."

The son started a website -- Dick Allen Belongs in the Hall of Fame -- but it didn't get much traction for a while. Part of the reason was his father refused to promote himself. That's why, when Carfagno got involved, the rallying cry was, "He Won't Campaign, So Let Us Explain."

"As far as changing his image, he'll never defend himself," Allen Jr. said. "He'll never say, 'This is why I did that.' He'd rather you think what you want to think about him, and you'll go about your way and he'll go on about his way."

Father and son have spoken less frequently recently about the Hall of Fame campaign.

"He didn't want to hear about, 'Dad, they want to know this,'" Allen Jr. said.

As a result, he could only guess what emotions his father experienced in the wake of the announcement.

"It's probably just another day to him. I just don't think he was getting his hopes up," Allen Jr. said. "It's like, 'If it happens, it happens. Great. If it doesn't, it doesn't.'

"Me, personally, I think he felt that those who are in, he can play with them. It's not a matter of not being good enough. He just has to meet the expectations of the voters. And I guess that's the problem."

But in three years, there will be another opportunity. Sure, that's a long time and anything can happen between now and then. But Dick Allen is trending in the right direction, and that counts for a lot.

And even if it never happens, well, it seems that a lot of people look at Allen differently now.

Besides, the son will always remember what happened at the All-Star Game in Baltimore in 1993. He was there with his father, and Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, a star of the Negro Leagues, spotted his father and waved him over. In the course of the conversation, Radcliffe offered the opinion that Allen could have played with the black stars of his era. "And my father turned to me and said, 'That right there, him saying that I could have played with them? I'm good.'"

Paul Hagen is a reporter for
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