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Elephant Rumblings: Dick Allen, longtime star slugger, dies at 78

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Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees
Allen in 1977
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Good morning afternoon, Athletics Nation!

Well, maybe not good, as one of the top headlines today is a sad one. The MLB family lost another star on Monday, as longtime slugging third/first baseman Dick Allen died at the age of 78, per his official Twitter account.

While Allen isn’t in the Hall of Fame, he’s widely considered to be one of the best players not enshrined. His Hall of Very Good career, which lasted 15 seasons from 1963-77, included a 1972 AL MVP, seven All-Star berths, 351 homers, an enormous 155 wRC+, and around 60 WAR. For context, his wRC+ mark is the 16th-best in MLB history, just above Willie Mays and the Big Hurt.

Allen, career: .292/.378/.534, 155 wRC+, 351 HR, 1,119 RBI, 12.2% BB, 133 SB

He broke into the majors with a cup of coffee for the Phillies, then played six full seasons for them. He later did a year on the Cardinals and then the Dodgers, before moving to the White Sox for three summers, where he won his MVP. After two seasons back with the Phillies, he wrapped up his career in 1977 with a year right here on the Oakland A’s — at age 35, he played in 54 games and posted a .681 OPS (94 wRC+) and five homers. He played the first half of his career primarily at third base, but then shifted across the diamond to first base in his later years.

Unfortunately, Allen never got to play in a World Series. He made the NLCS once with the Phillies in ‘76, but that was the extent of his postseason experience (he went 2-for-9 with a pair of singles and three walks).

Like any longtime star, Allen has a fascinating personal story as well. Matt Gelb of The Athletic wrote in September about the adversity Allen faced as both a Black athlete in the 1960s and someone who wouldn’t surrender his individuality in a time and place that looked unfavorably upon anything outside the strict norm. In addition to baseball (and even during his playing career), “Rich” Allen was also a professional singer, with a tenor voice.

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