Nick Allen, a righthanded-hitting catcher of the Deadball Era, went on to great success as a minor league manager and scout. His greatest achievement as a player was being a member of the 1919 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds. As a minor league manager, he led clubs in St. Paul and Tulsa to pennants. Among the players he tutored in the minors who went on to success in the big leagues were Leo Durocher, Mark Koenig and Chuck Dressen.
Artemus Ward “Nick” Allen was born September 14, 1888, in Norton, Kansas. His parents, Edward Greene Allen and Emily Josephine Hobbs, lived in the Chicago area. Family genealogical research shows that Nick was a descendent of Edward Boone, brother of the famous Daniel Boone. He was also a second cousin, once removed, of President Harry S Truman.
Nick’s parents headed west to some property owned by his maternal grandfather. A short time later they moved back to the Chicago area. A final move returned them to Kansas in time for Nick’s birth. His family settled on land also owned by his grandfather near Udall. Nick was to call this area home the rest of his life.
Nick’s mother mainly raised her large family by herself. Nick played baseball as a young man. He, according to family stories, also was involved in prizefighting town bouts. Perhaps he showed his toughness in the ring then as he later did on the ball field.
In February 1910 Nick began his professional baseball career. He signed with Wichita, which then farmed him out to Newton in the Kansas State League. His initial salary was $100 a month. He remained with Newton in 1911. The league disbanded on July 11, and Nick was signed by Dubuque and optioned to Lincoln of the Western League.
In October 1911, Nick was drafted from Dubuque by the Chicago White Sox. The Sox released him to Des Moines. In May 1912, Nick signed with Minneapolis of the American Association; a teammate on that club was the famous Rube Waddell. Here, Nick enjoyed the first of five pennants his teams would win in his career.
In 1913 Nick played with Minneapolis and Fargo. In October, Fargo placed him on their reserve list for 1914. Nick then violated the reserve clause of his contract, signing with Buffalo of the upstart Federal League. As Sporting Life reported in its February 28, 1914, issue: “Allen, who caught pretty fair ball for Minneapolis A.A. last year announced he has signed with Feds.” The Federal League was an attempt to create a third major league. The experiment lasted two years.
Nick played sparingly his first season in Buffalo. Injuries and illness took him out the lineup. He injured a thumb early in the season. He was stricken with appendicitis and sent home in June.
Nick continued with Buffalo in 1915. That season he saw the most action of his major league career. He played in 84 games, compiling 215 at-bats. A good defensive catcher, Nick struggled at the plate. At the end of his major league career, The Sporting News explained that he can “everlastingly pulverize southpaws. Allen destroys lefties but can’t much hit righties.”
1916 saw Nick briefly in the National League. He made his Chicago Cubs debut on May 7, going 0-for-4. He lasted five games, with just one hit in 16 at-bats. The rest of the season saw him playing in Topeka. The Cincinnati Reds purchased his contract for 1917. The Reds optioned Nick to Providence, subject to recall. He stayed there through the 1917 season.
In 1918 Nick made the Reds, appearing in 37 games. In August — as many players had done — he, too, joined the military. He served in the Army from August 30 through January 18, 1919. His service was entirely in the United States.
The 1919 season found Nick back with the Reds. This team went on to become world champions, defeating the notorious Black Sox in the scandal-ridden World Series. Nick served mainly as a bullpen catcher. He was used in only 15 games that season, hitting .320 in 25 at-bats. Nick remained with the Reds through the 1920 season.
In 1921 Nick was involved in a deal that brought catcher Eugene “Bubbles” Hargrave to Cincinnati. He went to St. Paul of the American Association, where he was to remain for eight years. There he continued as a catcher from 1921 to 1924. In 1924 he took on the additional task of manager.
Nick’s managerial career began with a bang. In his first season he led the St. Paul Saints to a pennant. The appreciative fans of St. Paul gave Nick an automobile in recognition of his achievement.
His club next claimed a victory over the famous Baltimore Orioles squad of Jack Dunn in a series between champions of the American Association and the International League. An account in the Akron Beacon Journal relates that he and Dunn engaged in a fistfight on the Baltimore bench during the series. The winner of the fight was not recorded.
The St. Paul club then went west to play the champion of the Pacific Coast League, Seattle. Only one game was played, due to inclement weather. St. Paul won, 12-3.
Nick’s overall managerial record at St. Paul was 447-384, a .538 winning percentage. Even with this outstanding record, his teams after 1924 never finished higher than third place in the standings. Hoping to land a major league managing or coaching position, Nick resigned as manager of St. Paul in October 1928. He did not land a coaching position with the Chicago White Sox as he had hoped.
In June 1929, Nick took over the Tulsa team of the Western League, leading it to the pennant. That December he was hired to manage the Jersey City squad of the International League for 1930. In August 1930 he resigned, being replaced by Joe Tinker. He returned home to Udall to work for an oil business managed by his brother, Mark.
Nick was out of baseball in 1931 and ’32. He applied for the managerial position at Minneapolis for 1933. He did not land the job. In May 1933, Nick replaced Tris Speaker as manager of Kansas City in the American Association. Speaker remained with the team as part-owner and secretary.
On July 11, 1933, Nick married Helen Louise Pettit at St. Joseph, Missouri. Marriage apparently did not mellow him. That August, Nick argued a call at second base by umpire Al Devormer. The argument continued for some time, with plate umpire Johnny Johnson ejecting Nick. When Nick refused to leave, the umpire gave him a specified time to do so. To make sure Nick complied, umpire Johnson pulled out his watch. Nick still did not obey. Eventually five police officers came from the stands to remove him. He left, still yelling. Incidents like this earned him the name “Roarin’ Nick.”
In 1934 and 1935, Nick scouted for the New York Yankees.
Nick was named manager in March 1936 of the Akron club of the Middle Atlantic League, a Yankees affiliate. He replaced Johnny Neun, who played for Nick at St. Paul in 1924; Neun had moved on to manage Norfolk. An article from an Akron newspaper quoted Nick as saying he is an umpire baiter. He says it is true; he has been a wild bull but the antics were just for show to increase attendance.
In 1938 and ’39 Nick scouted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. About the month of February in 1939, Nick was hospitalized for an operation. He was fighting cancer. After eight months in the Edward Hines Jr. Veteran’s Hospital in Hines, Illinois, on the 17th of October Nick passed away. He is buried in the Ninnescah Cemetery, just outside Udall. His grave is marked with a soldier’s tombstone. His wife, two brothers and two sisters survived him. Nick and Helen had no children.
Allen was a member of the Disabled American Veterans, a Mason and an honorary life member of the Kansas Old Timers Baseball Association.
Helen Pettit Allen scrapbook.
State of Illinois death certificate.
Phone interview, e-mail correspondence with Keith Brandon, great-nephew of Nick Allen.
Nick Allen Hall of Fame file.
National Association Contract cards.
Newspaper Obituaries: Kansas City Post, Omaha World Journal, newspapers in Wichita, Kansas, and Columbus, Ohio.
Reach Guides 1913, 1920.
The Sporting News, 1910-1932, in particular issues of February 3, 1921, February 7, 1924, December 20, 1928, and December 12, 1929.
Sporting Life, 1914-1916, in particular issues of February 28, 1914, and November 21, 1916.
U. S. Federal Census: Cowley County, Kansas, 1910, 1920, 1930.
Columbus State Journal August 7, 1933, issue.
Johnson, Lloyd and Miles Wolff, editors. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball 2nd Edition, Durham, N.C.: Baseball America, Inc., 1997.
Thorn, John and Pete Palmer, et. al., editors. Total Baseball. 7th Edition. Kingston, New York: Total Sports Publishing, 2001.