Dick Allen

May 16, 1973: Despite homer, reigning AL MVP Dick Allen dislikes first DH appearance

This article was written by Jake Bell

Dick AllenAfter winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award with the Chicago White Sox in 1972, Dick Allen needed some rest. “Toward the end of the season, I was completely exhausted, a nervous wreck,” he admitted. “I’d been carrying the team for months. … I didn’t think I could play anymore.”1

The newly adopted designated-hitter rule, which let AL teams substitute a permanent hitter in place of the pitcher, seemed to present an opportunity to rest Allen while also keeping his powerful bat in the lineup in 1973.

In fact, when the White Sox and Allen agreed to a three-year, $675,000 contract in the 1972-73 offseason, making Allen the highest-paid player in baseball history, general manager Stu Holcomb cited the DH rule as a reason he was willing to make the deal. “We don’t feel there’s any risk involved… Suppose his arm goes bad again and he can’t throw,” Holcomb suggested. “He’d still be tremendously valuable as a designated hitter.”2

White Sox manager Chuck Tanner planned to use the 31-year-old Allen at DH in the second games of doubleheaders, but otherwise expected Allen on the diamond. “Dick’s leadership has been as important in making the White Sox a pennant contender as his bat has,” Tanner insisted. “Allen knows how to play the game. Just a word from him calms down a pitcher or reassures a jittery young infielder.”3

In his first spring-training appearance, Allen was the DH against the New York Yankees in Sarasota, Florida. “Dick was going bananas on the bench,” Tanner recounted. “He’d go up the plate and when he got back to the bench, he’d say, ‘C’mon, Chuck, let me get in there!’”4

“I want to get in there and play,” Allen confirmed, but noted that his distaste was more than a personal issue. “If they start using the designated hitter in high school, the pony leagues, and even the little leagues, it will hurt baseball.”5

Despite Tanner’s plans, Allen didn’t rest. He started at first base in Chicago’s first 28 games, including both games of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals on April 22. Even after Allen jammed his thumb hard enough to chip a bone making a tag on Baltimore Orioles outfielder Merv Rettenmund on May 2, he continued to start every game at first for nearly two weeks, wearing a padded bandage that made it difficult to hold his weighty 42-ounce bat.

“Most of the time, he’s hitting one-handed,” Tanner shared. “He lets go of the bat with his left hand when he comes through.”6 That resulted in a drop in power – Allen didn’t hit a home run for the next 12 days and even resorted to laying down a bunt single, something he hadn’t done since joining the team – but still the slugger batted .359 with a 1.025 OPS in his next 11 games, of which the White Sox won seven.

Two nights earlier, the same night he’d broken his homerless streak, Allen reinjured the thumb tagging out Sal Bando in Oakland. Finally, he relented and swapped roles with Mike Andrews, Chicago’s primary DH, for the series opener against the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium on May 16.

When the DH rule was introduced, two Twins stars were held up as examples of the types of aging players who could benefit. “It throws more fear into a pitcher’s heart if he has to face a .300 hitter like Tony] Oliva or a home-run hitter like Harmon] Killebrew,” noted former Cy Young Award winner Jim Perry.7 But neither of the future Hall of Fame hitters much liked the idea.

“When you play in the field, you’re more in the game,” the 34-year-old Oliva related. “Your body stays loose, you’re more with it.”8

“It might be difficult keeping your head in the game just sitting on the bench and waiting to hit,” 36-year-old Killebrew agreed.9

Minnesota trailed Chicago by 5½ games in the AL West and had lost 11 of its previous 16 games, but manager Frank Quilici believed his team could beat the White Sox, who had the best record in the majors at 19-9.10 “Why not?” he challenged.11

Before a home crowd of just 6,119, the Twins took a three-run lead early. Minnesota starter Bill Hands retired the first six White Sox in order, and in the bottom of the second, Killebrew and Steve Braun drew back-to-back, one-out walks off knuckleballer Eddie Fisher. The Chicago pitcher had spent most of his career as a reliever,12 but Tanner saw him as a starter. Two months from his 37th birthday, Fisher was making his seventh start of a career-high 16 in what proved to be his final big-league season.

Both runners scored when Danny Thompson extended his hitting streak to 15 game with a two-run triple into right-center-field.13 Thompson scored on a sacrifice fly to left by George Mitterwald.

In the top of the third, Chicago’s Ed Herrmann ripped a grounder through third baseman Braun’s legs and into the left-field corner for what was ruled a two-base error. A line-drive double over shortstop Thompson’s head by Jorge Orta brought Hermann home to narrow the Twins’ lead to 3-1.

Both pitchers kept the scoreboard empty in the fourth and fifth innings. Allen singled to lead off the fourth but got caught in a double-play grounder slapped at Thompson by Bill Melton.

Hands brushed leadoff hitter Eddie Leon with a pitch in the sixth, but managed get a pair of fielder’s-choice grounders from Johnny Jeter and Pat Kelly, who was leading the AL in batting at .426 coming into the game. The Twins nearly had a double play to end the inning, but Thompson bobbled Kelly’s grounder and got only the lead runner. “The ball came up off the ground. The infield is rough,” he complained. “I don’t think I caught a ball in my glove all night.”14

That brought up Allen, who singled to left, setting up Melton to give Chicago the lead. The big right-hander had won the 1971 AL home-run crown, the first White Sox player to do so, but missed most of 1972 with back injuries related to falling off a ladder prior to the season.

This night, however, he was back to form, and demonstrated so with a slider that Hands hung high in the zone. Melton drove the ball deep into the left-field stands, putting Chicago up 4-3.

The lead lasted until the Twins’ seventh. Thompson led off with a double. Mitterwald attempted to move the tying run to third, but his bunt rolled foul. He drove Fisher’s next pitch to the center-field wall, scoring Thompson and sending Fisher to the showers.

Tanner called on Terry Forster – who’d racked up 29 saves in 1972 at 20 years old, good for second best in the AL15 – despite the lefty pitching three innings and getting tagged with a blown save in the ninth inning the previous night.16 Forster retired Jim Holt and Larry Hisle, but walked Rod Carew to bring up Oliva.17

The hitless Twins DH blooped a pitch to the opposite field. It looked as though it was headed for foul territory but fell just inside the line. With two out, the runners were already going and scored easily.

Mike Adams ran for Oliva and scored moments later. Forster jammed Bobby Darwin, but the righty muscled the pitch into left field for a single. Steve Stone replaced Forster and struck out Killebrew, but the four-run inning put the Twins up 7-4.

Pinch-hitter Tony Muser led off the Chicago eighth with a double into center. He moved to third on a groundout to first by Jeter but had to stay put when Kelly grounded to shortstop.

With two outs, Allen stepped into the batter’s box. Hands delivered a slider, low and outside, but Allen reached across the plate and blasted it over the left-field fence for a two-run homer. “That pitch was just where Bill wanted it,” Twins catcher Mitterwald confirmed. “I don’t think anyone else in the league could have got his bat around and hit it out. That’s probably why they’re paying that guy $225,000 a year.”18

The two runs weren’t enough to take the lead, however, and Minnesota added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning.19 Ken Sanders, who replaced Hands after Allen’s homer, retired four of the next five White Sox hitters to secure the 8-6 victory and his fifth save of the year.

Despite going 3-for-4 with a home run, Allen didn’t soften his stance on the DH. “I can’t take it,” he grumbled. “You hit, it’s over, sit down. You get stiff, you run in the tunnel to get loose. You smoke cigarette after cigarette, drink 19 cups of coffee. Get your heart beating again, hit again, sit back down.”20

“I wanted to give his sore thumb a rest, but all he did during the game was walk around with a bat in his hand,” Tanner recounted.21 Allen returned to his regular position the next game and never had another at-bat as a designated hitter.22

His 1973 season was cut short by a collision with California Angels hitter Mike Epstein, which broke Allen’s leg. He tried to return in late July but had to shut things down after one start and two pinch-hit appearances.



This article was reviewed by Kevin Larkin and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author accessed Baseball-Reference.com, Stathead.com, and Retrosheet.org.





1 Roy Blount Jr., “Swinging in His Own Groove,” Sports Illustrated, September 10, 1973: 104.

2 Edgar Munzel, “Allen Scoops Up Record 675,000 Devalued $$,” The Sporting News, March 17, 1973: 34.

3 Edgar Munzel, “Tanner Nixes Exclusive DH Role for Allen,” The Sporting News, February 3, 1973: 39.

4 Edgar Munzel, “DH Rule Could Ruin Baseball, Warns Allen,” The Sporting News, March 31, 1973: 43.

5 Munzel, “DH Rule Could Ruin Baseball.” Allen felt that since the best young athletes on baseball teams were often tabbed to be pitchers because they could throw hardest, they would be pigeonholed and never develop as hitters under the DH.

6 Edgar Munzel, “Allen Shrugs Off Injury to Earn Robust Salary,” The Sporting News, June 2, 1973: 10.

7 Bob Fowler, “Killer, Oliva Express Doubt over DH Rule,” The Sporting News, February 3, 1973: 40. Perry made the statement while a member of the Twins, but was traded to the Detroit Tigers during spring training.

8 Fowler, “Killer, Oliva Express Doubt.”

9 Fowler, “Killer, Oliva Express Doubt.”

10 Though the White Sox had the best record overall, the San Francisco Giants (26-13) and Chicago Cubs (22-13) had more wins.

11 Dan Stoneking, “Knuckle, Knuckle Test for Twins,” Minneapolis Star, May 16, 1973: 1G. Minnesota and Chicago split their 18-game season series at nine wins apiece. The Twins finished the 1973 season at 81-81, good for third place in the AL West and four games ahead of the fifth-place White Sox, who finished 77-85.

12 Fisher made the All-Star team in 1965 on his way to pitching in an AL-record 82 games, closing out a league-leading 60 of them, and finishing fourth in MVP voting behind winner Zoilo Versalles, Oliva, and Brooks Robinson.

13 This streak matched Thompson’s career-best streak set between July 12-29, 1972. The following night, he hit a single off Wilbur Wood in the seventh inning to extend it to 16 games, but went 0-for-4 in the next game.

14 Dick Gordon, “G-H Twins Run Goat-Hero Gamut,” Minneapolis Star, May 17, 1973: 1D.

15 Sparky Lyle led the junior circuit with 35 saves, and both trailed Clay Carroll, who led the National League and the majors with 37.

16 Chicago led Oakland 5-4 with two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth. Utility infielder Luis Alvarado, who’d been inserted as a runner for catcher Hermann in the top of the ninth and remained in the defensive lineup at shortstop, fumbled a Gene Tenace grounder. That put Bert Campaneris on third, allowing him to score on Reggie Jackson’s only hit of the game, a game-tying single to right field. The White Sox won the game 6-5 in 12 innings.

17 Though it doesn’t have anything to do with this game in particular, it’s worth noting that each of the DHs in this game was Rookie of the Year in 1964. Oliva was AL RoY with Minnesota and Allen was NL RoY with the Philadelphia Phillies.

18 Gordon, “G-H Twins.”

19 Braun led the inning with a walk, was sacrificed to second by Thompson, and scored on a Mitterwald single.

20 Blount, “Swinging in His Own Groove.”

21 Richard Dozer, “Cubs Lose; Twins Rally, Beat Sox 8-6,” Chicago Tribune, May 17, 1973: 3-1.

22 On July 30, 1974, Allen replaced White Sox DH Kelly in the 10th inning. Nolan Ryan struck him out and he remained on the lineup card as a DH for Chicago’s defensive half of the inning, though, technically, his at-bat was as a pinch-hitter. In the second game of a doubleheader on April 10, 1977, Allen was penciled in at DH, batting cleanup for the Oakland A’s, but was replaced by pinch-hitter Jerry Tabb in the first inning before his at-bat.

Additional Stats

Minnesota Twins 8
Chicago White Sox 6

Metropolitan Stadium
Minneapolis, MN


Box Score + PBP:

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1970s ·