Kim Allen, a solid contact hitter with a God-given knack for getting on base, spent parts of two seasons (1980-1981) with the Seattle Mariners. Although he was primarily an outfielder during his nine-year professional baseball career, he saw most of his big-league defensive action at second base, and half of his 42 appearances for Seattle came as a pinch-runner. Between the majors and minors in 1980, Allen stole 94 bases, including a Pacific Coast League record 84 for the Spokane Indians.
Kim Bryant Allen was born on April 5, 1953, in Fontana, California, 50 miles east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County. His mother, Betty (Gripton), also had a daughter named Marilynn. Kim’s father, Bryant “Blinky” Allen, was an outstanding sprinter, running the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds in 1936–a Jefferson High School record for more than two decades.1
After Blinky enrolled at Riverside Junior College, he often competed at the same track meets as Pasadena’s Jackie Robinson.2 His nickname came from his characteristic blinking while playing the drums. A baritone singer, Blinky formed musical groups after returning from World War II, including the Stardusters, who backed jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln on her first recording.3
“I’m thankful that [my dad], a black man, married my mom, a white woman in the ’50s. They got married in Mexico because it was against the law in California,” Allen recalled. “Although I faced challenges and discrimination, the trials made me a stronger person.”4
“Because my dad worked at night as a drummer, singer, joke teller, and overall, a very charismatic person, he was available to spend time with me after school. We spent a lot of time playing Bop Baseball” Allen said.5 In Bop Baseball, a 1961 REMCO Games release, players inserted one hand into plastic grooves attached to a wooden stick and twisted their wrist to swing the bat. It helped Kim develop a good eye, timing, and strike zone discipline. Blinky also coached some of Kim’s youth teams and ignited his son’s interest in baseball–and speed.
“I’ve always been fascinated with base stealing,” Kim said. “Even when I was nine years old, I used to study Maury Wills and Lou Brock.”6 Wills, his idol, led the National League in steals six straight times for the Los Angeles Dodgers before Allen entered his teens.
When his father died in 1969, Allen was a sophomore at Riverside Polytechnic High School, where he played baseball and basketball. As a 1971 senior, he earned first-team All-Citrus Belt League recognition. He led the circuit in hitting for most of the season before finishing fourth at .421.7 Allen, a right-handed hitter and thrower, was also named the California Interscholastic Federation’s third-team center fielder.8
Allen enrolled at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) to study sociology and Black history. When the California Angels visited for an exhibition in the spring of 1974, he stroked an RBI single for UCR.9 As a junior that season, Allen was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference’s first-team designated hitter.10
From 1967 to 1991, the Riverside Baseball Invitational Tournament was “the marquee college baseball event in Southern California,” pitting the UCR Highlanders against some of the nation’s top Division 1 programs.11 In 1975, Allen was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and was instrumental in UCR winning it for the first time. In the championship game against Stanford, he delivered the decisive hit in the bottom of the eighth inning.12 In UCR’s two contests that day, he stole eight bases: five against the University of Arizona and three against Stanford. Allen’s 15 steals in that tournament remains a record.13
In 1975, Allen led the nation’s Division II players with 57 stolen bases in 42 games.14 Through 2021, he remains the Highlanders’ single-season and career-steals leader.15 Still, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder wasn’t drafted.16 “I was an outfielder, and every year I was told I didn’t hit enough home runs or have a strong enough arm,” Allen explained.17
Riverside-based scout Lou Cohenour arranged for him to attend an Angels tryout camp as a second baseman, a position that Allen hadn’t played “except maybe back in Little League somewhere.” He impressed another scout, Al Kubski, enough to receive a professional contract.18
Allen debuted with the Davenport, Iowa-based Quad Cities Angels in the Class A Midwest League. While the club had switch-hitting speedster Julio Cruz to play second base, they needed help in the outfield. Allen appeared in 49 games for the South Division champs in 1975, stealing 26 bases and compiling a .402 on-base percentage.
In 1976, Allen started and finished with the Salinas Angels in the Class A California League. The team had a crowded outfield, however, so Salinas loaned him to the Alacranes de Durango of the Triple-A Mexican League from late May until early August. “The implication was that if I refused to go, I would be released,” he recalled.19 Although he appeared in only 66 games there, his 34 steals ranked second in the circuit.
“When I returned to Salinas to finish the season. . . . I became a starter and started every game of the playoffs,” Allen said. Overall, in 105 games between the two clubs, he compiled a .305 average and .400 OBP, proving that he could get on base and contribute. With Salinas, he stole 19 bases in as many tries. “I led off, Julio [Cruz, who stole 68 bases] batted second, and Thad Bosley (90 steals) batted third. . . . I loved that lineup.”20
Allen started a second straight season at Salinas in 1977, but his .333 batting average and 17 steals in 20 contests earned him a promotion to the Salt Lake City Gulls of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on May 6. When he was caught stealing by Spokane catcher Art Kusnyer on May 28, it ended his string of successful steal attempts at 22 straight.21 With Salt Lake City, Allen stole 53 bases to rank second in the PCL–three behind Albuquerque’s Rafael Landestoy, who appeared in 29 more games. Overall, at the two levels combined, Allen hit .316 in 121 contests with career highs in runs (102), doubles (29), walks (70) and RBIs (50). “That was my best year,” he insisted later.22
He also appeared in ‘77 in his first professional games as an infielder–six at second base and five at third. That fall, the Angels sent Allen to the Arizona Instructional League, where The Sporting News’s Ed Prell reported he was “making the switch from the outfield to second base because there’s not enough ‘pop’ in his bat.”23 After a month, however, Allen broke a finger practicing turning double plays with coach Chuck Cottier and was sent home.
Allen returned to Salt Lake City to begin 1978, but he was relegated to the bench behind Jim Anderson. In June, the Gulls loaned him to the Columbus (Ohio) Clippers–the Pirates’ Triple-A International League affiliate–for 24 games. “My understanding was they [the Gulls] were releasing me,” he said. “When I contacted the Angels to return to them, they told me I did not belong to the Angels.”
In his last action for Columbus, Allen went 4-for-4 against the Rochester (New York) Red Wings, an Orioles farm club. “I heard that the Pirates contacted the Orioles, specifically [Rochester manager] Frank Robinson, and asked if they would be interested,” Allen recalled. “Frank was interested, and I became a Rochester Red Wing.”24 By season’s end, Allen had seen action in 83 games for three teams–mostly at third base–and batted .276 with 29 steals and a .408 OBP.
“He puts pressure on the defense,” Robinson raved. “He makes things happen.”25 In 1979, Robinson joined Baltimore’s major-league coaching staff and Rochester didn’t have a roster spot available.
“I was being released by the Red Wings when the phone rang,” Allen explained. “Luis Aparicio, a [then future] Hall of Famer and a former Oriole, was looking for a second baseman. The [farm] director asked me if I wanted to play in Venezuela. I said yes because I wanted to keep my career alive.”26 The Red Wings sold Allen to the Maracaibo Petroleros de Zulia of the new Triple-A Inter-American League, managed by former big league pitcher Pat Dobson. The league also featured teams from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Miami. In 32 games, he stole 15 bases and hit .311 before the short-lived circuit folded midway through its inaugural season.
Allen returned home to California and spotted Maury Wills outside a restaurant in Venice. When he roller-skated towards his childhood hero and asked how to earn another chance in professional baseball, Wills asked his age. When Allen told him 26, Wills said he was too old. Afterward, Allen wrote a note and left it at Wills’ home in Playa de Rey with a copy of his minor-league statistics.27
Prior to the 1980 season, Allen attended a tryout camp for the PCL’s Spokane Indians, a Seattle Mariners farm club. “It was my last hope,” he said.28
“I put my trust in God and I really felt His presence,” Allen described. “He gave me a peace, and I didn’t feel any pressure. I knew I had to work because my job was on the line, but basically, I just went out and had fun.”29
He made the team and stole 15 bases in his first 13 games.30 By June, he had surpassed Dave Moates’ Spokane record of 41 steals.31 Splitting his time between second base and the outfield, plus a little bit at third, Allen enjoyed a memorable season, hitting safely in 35 consecutive games until he went 0-for-1 with three walks against John Sutton in Ogden on July 17.32 “I hated to lose it that way,” he admitted. “I just wish he would have thrown me some strikes.”
Allen’s ascent to the majors gained momentum. In an exhibition game against the Mariners two nights before his hitting streak ended, he swiped two bases despite Seattle first baseman Tom Paciorek’s fruitless attempt to slow him down by holding the waistband of Allen’s pants. Allen told reporters, “I would like to play in the big leagues very much, but I’m not going to worry about it. If it’s [God’s] will, I’ll play in the big leagues.”33
On August 4, he notched his 68th steal while Vancouver’s pitcher and first baseman discussed who should have covered first base on Allen’s second bunt single of the contest.34 That same night in Anaheim, the Mariners debuted their new manager, Maury Wills. When Wills made a scouting trip to Tacoma on an off day and recognized Allen, he decided that Seattle would promote him in September. “It’s a small world,” Wills explained. “Anybody with that kind of persistence deserved a look.”35
In Spokane’s last home game, Allen stole his 80th base to break Rudy Law’s modern PCL record.36 “The Lord knew I wanted to break it at home,” he remarked. “That’s the way He works. If you are patient, your prayers will be answered.”37 Overall, in 118 games, Allen batted .294 with 84 steals.
The Mariners called Allen up to the majors. On September 2, 1980, he debuted as a seventh-inning pinch-runner in Baltimore, racing from first to third on Leon Roberts’ single before being stranded with Seattle trailing, 8-2. He remained in the game at second base in the bottom of the frame, handling his first chance when the Orioles’ Rich Dauer hit a ball that caromed off Mariners’ first baseman Joe Simpson. Allen gloved it and threw it to pitcher Dave Heaverlo covering first for the third out–Dauer lingering briefly to argue the ruling.38 Leading off the ninth, Allen grounded out to third against future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. Seattle lost, 10-4.
On September 7 at Fenway Park, Allen collected his first big-league hit–a ninth-inning double off Boston righty Keith MacWhorter. Allen scored an insurance run and sealed Seattle’s 12-6 victory by fielding Glenn Hoffman’s grounder, stepping on second base for a force out, and firing to first to complete a game-ending double play. In his first start, two nights later at Comiskey Park, Allen played left field and went 1-for-4 with an RBI. He was also caught stealing on his first major-league attempt, but he pinch-ran and swiped second with the Mariners trailing by a run in the ninth inning the following day. During his first homestand at the Seattle Kingdome, Allen enjoyed his first two-hit game against Brewers’ lefty Bob McClure (who also picked him off), and he swiped two bases against the White Sox. On September 19 in Milwaukee, Allen collected three hits against McClure and tied a Mariners record (at the time) by stealing three bases. Overall, Allen appeared in 23 of Seattle’s last 32 games and hit .235 in 51 at-bats. In 13 stolen-base attempts, he was successful 10 times. Two of the times caught stealing came on pickoff plays. The only catcher to throw him out was Kansas City All-Star Darrell Porter on the season’s final weekend.
Between the majors and minors, Allen logged 94 steals in 1980, but he wasn’t yet finished. That winter, he joined the Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan League and swiped 13 more while batting .266 in 40 contests as a center fielder.39
During spring training 1981, Allen was one of 10 players featured in a New York Times preview of the upcoming season’s top rookies. “Enjoys jazz and chess and steals bases,” the article noted.40
Wills said, “He’s going to be my all-purpose player. He won’t start nearly as many games as he’ll be in, but we’ll have plenty of things he can do.”41
Allen appeared in eight of Seattle’s first 17 games but went hitless in his only two at-bats. As a pinch-runner, he stole one base and scored one run. On April 30, the day he was optioned back to Spokane, Seattle was shut out on two hits to fall to 5-14, the worst record in the American League. Wills was fired less than a week later.
Back in Triple-A, Allen batted .286 in 109 games as an outfielder-second baseman, with team-leading totals of 87 runs scored and 50 steals. In 402 at-bats, he drew 66 walks and struck out only 22 times. His six home runs matched the number that he’d produced in his first six professional seasons combined. Although he returned to the Mariners, he made just one more plate appearance; he finished the season 0-for-3 with two steals in 19 games for Seattle. He concluded his 42-game major-league career with a .222 batting average and a dozen stolen bases.
In 1982 and 1983, Allen was an outfielder for the Hanshin Tigers in the Japan Central League. In his first year with the Nishinomiya-based club, he batted .260 with 22 steals in 78 contests. He raised his average to .276 in ’83 and nabbed 12 stolen bases in his final 47 professional games before he was released.
Allen returned to UC Riverside to complete his bachelor’s degree. It was there that he met and married Michelle Grimes in 1985. He fathered two daughters, Karissa and Kymberly. After baseball, Allen became a juvenile hall counselor for 15 years.
In 1987, Allen was inducted into the UC Riverside Athletic Hall of Fame.
When the Senior Professional Baseball Association sought former major-league players for its initial season in 1989, Allen was playing softball in a church league along with former Cleveland Indians pitcher Cardell Camper. “It was Cardell that got me interested in playing,” he recalled. “He received information in the mail and told me I should try out.”42 Allen, 36, didn’t merely make Fort Myers Sun Sox manager Pat Dobson’s roster; he batted .330 with a .438 on-base percentage and league-leading 33 steals.43 After the circuit added a franchise near Allen’s home for 1990, the San Bernardino Pride traded three players to acquire him.44 The SPBA folded midway through its second season, however. “I knew the league had problems, but I told myself it would work out,” Allen said. “I just told myself that if it folds, it’s God’s will, but when it happened, it still hit me like a weight.”45
Allen returned to his duties helping adolescents. From 2001 until his 2018 retirement, he taught seventh and eighth grade in the San Bernardino County Unified School District, specializing in reading and language arts.
As of 2022, Allen is an Elder at Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, and he mentors at Serrano Middle School, where he is also the assistant baseball coach.
Last revised: May 18, 2022
Special thanks to Kim Allen for his sharing his input in a series of emails to the author.
This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Howard Rosenberg and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.
The author is not related to Kim Allen.
In addition to sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted www.ancestry.com, and www.baseball-reference.com.
1 “John & Eva Allen,” http://riversider.org/etienne/having-our-say/voices-of-the-spirit/john-eva-allen/ (last accessed May 29, 2021).
2 Joe Goss, “Louis Zamperini Fails to Show for Race with Lash,” News-Pilot (San Pedro, California), May 21, 1938: 6.
3 “Blinky Allen,” https://secondhandsongs.com/artist/64226 (last accessed May 29, 2021).
4 Kim Allen, Facebook post, January 14, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2424639517681368&set=pb.100004060303393.-2207520000..&type=3 (last accessed May 29, 2021).
5 Kim Allen, email to Malcolm Allen, April 26, 2022.
6 Chuck Stewart, “Thievery, Faith Sustain Spokane’s Streaker,” The Sporting News, August 9, 1980: 41.
7 “Scott Russell Takes Batting Title in CBL,” Redlands (California) Daily Facts, May 28, 1971: 9.
8 “All-CIF ‘AAAA’,” Valley News (Van Nuys, California), June 18, 1971: 28.
9 “Twins’ Lis Gets Decked, Gets Revenge at Bat,” Redlands Daily Facts, April 4, 1974: 11.
10 “Cal Poly’s Thornhill on All-CCAA,” Progress Bulletin (Pomona, California), May 23,1974: 38.
11 “Baseball: RBI Tournament,” https://gohighlanders.com/sports/2012/1/24/BB_0124125914.aspx (last accessed March 10, 2022).
12 “UCR Wins Tourney,” San Bernardino (California) County Sun, March 30, 1975: 24.
13 Kim Allen, email to Malcolm Allen, February 8, 2022.
14 “Division II Baseball Records,” http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/stats/baseball_RB/2010/D2.pdf (last accessed May 29, 2021): 18.
15 “UC Riverside Athletics Hall of Fame,” https://gohighlanders.com/honors/uc-riverside-athletics-hall-of-fame/kim-allen/11 (last accessed February 8, 2022).
16 Although Baseball-Reference lists Allen’s height as 5-foot-11, he corrected it to 5-foot-10 in an email to the author on April 26, 2022.
17 Stewart, “Thievery, Faith Sustain Spokane’s Streaker.”
18 Kim Allen, Publicity Questionnaire for William J. Weiss, April 25, 1977.
19 In an email to the author on April 4, 2022, Allen said, “Alacranes is Spanish for scorpions. The fans used to threaten to throw scorpions on us when we lost.”
20 Kim Allen, email to Malcolm Allen, April 4, 2022.
21 “Pacific Coast League,” The Sporting News, June 25, 1977: 32.
22 Stewart, “Thievery, Faith Sustain Spokane’s Streaker.”
23 Ed Prell, “Hitters Have Upper Hand in Arizona,” The Sporting News, November 5, 1977: 27.
24 Kim Allen, email to Malcolm Allen, April 4, 2022.
25 “Fleet Allen Torments Foes,” The Sporting News, September 16, 1978: 35.
26 Kim Allen, email to Malcolm Allen, April 4, 2022.
27 Tracy Ringolsby, “Patience Pays Off, as M’s Wills Discovers,” The Sporting News, March 28, 1981: 26.
28 Stewart, “Thievery, Faith Sustain Spokane’s Streaker.”
29 Stewart, “Thievery, Faith Sustain Spokane’s Streaker.”
30 “McCall Seeks Call to Majors,” The Sporting News, May 24, 1980: 39.
31 “Great Gray,” The Sporting News, July 12, 1980: 50.
32 “Allen’s 35-Game Streak Snapped,” The Sporting News, August 2, 1980: 40.
33 Stewart, “Thievery, Faith Sustain Spokane’s Streaker.”
34 “Allen a Problem for Canadians,” The Sporting News, August 30, 1980: 42.
35 Ringolsby, “Patience Pays Off, as M’s Wills Discovers.”
36 As of 2021, Allen’s 84 stolen bases in 1980 remain the modern PCL record. San Francisco’s Jimmy Johnston swiped 124 bases in 1913, when he appeared in 201 of the Seals’ 207 games. Through the 2021 season, the closest any PCL player has come to threatening Allen’s stolen base mark was Alan Wiggins (73 in 1981).
37 “Allen Sets Theft Record,” The Sporting News, September 13, 1980: 53.
38 Kent Baker, “HRs Help Palmer Win 15th,” Baltimore Sun, September 3, 1980: C5.
39 Kim Allen’s Venezuelan League statistics from http://www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/tem_equ.php?EQ=MAG&TE=1980-81 (last accessed May 30, 2021)
40 Joseph Durso, “The Hope of Spring: Baseball’s Rookies,” New York Times, March 29, 1981: S1.
41 Ringolsby, “Patience Pays Off, as M’s Wills Discovers.”
42 Dan Evans, “Talking More Than Baseball,” San Bernardino County Sun, December 11, 1990: 37.
43 “Senior Baseball: San Bernardino Pride,” San Bernardino County Sun, November 22, 1990: 45.
44 “Pride Trades Rights to Three for Kim Allen,” San Bernardino County Sun, October 12, 1990: 46.
45 Gregg Patton, “Players Left Trying to Fill the Void,” San Bernardino County Sun, December 27, 1990: C1.
Kim Bryant Allen
April 5, 1953 at Fontana, CA (USA)
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