1969 BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE DAY- BERNIE ALLEN- WASHINGTON SENATORS

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Outside of just getting a players autograph before a ballgame or at some autograph signing the first ballplayer I had an up close and personal experience was Bernie Allen. I was in high school and his career had been over for a few seasons. He had moved back to his hometown East Liverpool, Ohio and as I recall was starting up a sporting goods store. He came to our high school to talk- but I think it was mainly to plug his store. I don’t know if he was talking to different groups or what it was. Maybe it was for whoever was interested. It was in the school library so it wasn’t before the entire school. I was of course interested. I was a stone called baseball nut and here was a guy who actually played a number of years in the league. I looked up Allen’s career in the Baseball Encyclopedia. He didn’t have great numbers but he managed to play a dozen seasons in the majors. I was/ am impressed by anyone who made it to The Show- someone who played a dozen seasons had to have had some ability.

I was excited about his visit but ended up disappointed. As I recall he was plugging his store mostly. {I think it was a failure-or else maybe he just moved on. I don’t think he stayed around long in East Liverpool } He talked about his career in the majors. At the end he took questions and I asked him about Ted Williams- I knew he had played for the Senators when Teddy F. Ballgame was manager. I can’t give you an exact quote on what he said about Ted but it was clear from his answer that Teddy and Bernie weren’t exchanging Christmas cards in the past, present or future. {This talk would have been forty years ago. Yikes!} I know all about how Ted could be a difficult guy and he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Ok. I didn’t hold it against Bernie that he thought little of Ted but it did seem like he was a guy of excuses and placing blame on others. As I recall the talk it seemed like poor Bernie was screwed over during his career. OK I will get back to that later.

A couple years later- another sort of Bernie Allen story- My friend Daniel Johnston-who I met and became friends with in high school. In the late 70’s early 80’s he started what would become a career. He was writing songs. He was going to college locally and fell head over heals in love with a girl named Laurie. The love was unrequited. Daniel would go on to write good lord knows how many songs about Laurie. Hundreds of songs? Who was Laurie’s father? Bernie Allen. [any Daniel Johnston fan knows the stories and songs about Laurie} Bernie being a former MLB player didn’t mean Bo Diddley to Dan- he wasn’t a sports fan.

He was a great athlete – he went to Purdue University where he played baseball and was also the quarterback on the football team being named team MVP in 1960. He was an All-American in baseball in 1960.

In 1961 he signed with the Minnesota Twins organization and played 80 games at class A before making the Twins team in 1962 as the opening day second baseman. Ber.nie would be a second baseman for most of his career- late in his career he would play some third base.

His rookie season would be his best overall season his totals- 12 home runs, 64 RBI and .269 were the best numbers he put up in each category. He was only 23 and the future seemed bright- the Twins were also at the time a rising team with some fantastic young talent.

1963 was a set back season for Allen. His numbers fell to 9 home runs 43 RBI and .240 average. He played in 20 less games but was still in 139 games so he was the regular second baseman.

In June of 1964 he suffered a serious injury that would effect his career- in a game Don Zimmer came in hard at second throwing a cross body block- tearing Allen’s knee ligaments. He would never be the same player after that. He only played in 74 games in 1964 and in 19 games in 1965- a year that the Twins would go to the World Series. He would watch the World Series from the stands.

In 1966 he came back somewhat being able to play in 101 games but his numbers hadn’t recovered and he ask for a trade when contract negotiations with owner Calvin Griffith were going nowhere. The Sporting News called Allen a ‘play me or trade me malcontent.” In the off-season the off-season was traded to the Washington Senators.

Allen would spend five seasons with the Washington Senators- his most playing time would be in 1968 and 1969 when he played in 120 and 122 games. His career never really rebounded from his knee injury in 1964 and his playing time decreased after 1969. In 1971 his final season in Washington he did hit .266 playing in 97 games. As a utility player now he was also playing some third base in addition to his old position at second base. In an interview I found when asked about Ted Williams his manager in Washington he said he was a great hitter and a great personality but not a good manager of people. I think that is a pretty fair and accurate statement.

In 1972 he was traded to the New York Yankees where he played a year and a half as a utility infielder. From the interviews I have read he enjoyed playing with the Yankees and for manager Ralph Houk a manager he had a lot of respect for. In August of 1973 Allen was purchased by the Montreal Expos- he would finish up the season and his career there at the age of 34.

Bernie Allen’s career stats are 73 home runs, 352 RBI and a career average of .239. His on base percentage was .314. He was a left handed hitter, right handed thrower. During his playing days he was 6’0″ 175.

I did more reading up on Bernie Allen because of the brief encounter I had with him forty years ago. A person can take this stuff either was he told it like it was or he was a whiner. I don’t know. 1- Coming out of high school the legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes wasn’t interested -said Allen was ‘too small for the Big Ten.” Allen goes to Purdue and was a star quarterback and in his senior year beat Ohio State with a field goal at the end of the game. After the game he went looking for Woody Hayes to ask him if he was too small. Woody had run off the field. When asked what would have happened if he had caught up with Coach Hayes, Allen’s reply in an interview was “If I caught him I might have been famous. I might have been the first person he hit.” 2- While in college he seemed to be having a continuing battle with the football coach there at Purdue, Jack Mollenkopf. Coach Mollenkopf was always trying to get Allen to drop baseball and only play football. He penalized Allen in the season opener by only playing him on defense and not at quarterback. After the game Mollenkopf told him that next week he’d be back at QB to which Allen replied ‘Don’t do me any favors.”  3. Allen blames his second season with the Twins slump on the coaches changing his batting stance so he’d hit for more power. 4. When Allen had his knee injury in 1964 he would come back to play in August to play ten games before shutting things down. It wasn’t until after the season when he sought the advice of the Minnesota Vikings orthopedic surgeon that it was discovered that he had a torn ACL and MCL. When they operated the ligaments had shriveled up. Allen in an interview complained how no one from the front office even sent him a card or a phone call. 5. 1965 when he didn’t play in the World Series due to his injury- he didn’t receive a World Series ring although he did play in 39 games that year. He said he has never forgotten that slight. 6. When he was traded to the Washington Senators after the 1966 season- he was sent to Washington as punishment for becoming the Twins union representative. 7. The complaining about Ted Williams. I am a big Ted Williams fan but after his first year as manager when the Senators did made a big improvement- things didn’t go well and he seemed to lose interest in the job. Most great ballplayers do not make successful coaches. Some of the above comments- probably just Bernie telling it like it was. The Woody Hayes incident sounds childish but he was a  young man at the time. Back when the players association was getting more power management wasn’t happy about it- were players punished for being involved? Sure they were. As far as the World Series ring- Twins owner Calvin Griffith was a notorious cheapskate. The Twins medical staff very well could have been incompetent-and the team probably was just interested  in getting him back on the field. I don’t know I wasn’t there. Seems like he did a lot of complaining though. But on the other side he did have many positive things to say in his interviews about Twin fans, Billy Martin- who he replaced in Minnesota as second baseman, Allen said Martin helped him a great deal even though he knew he was going to take his job. As mentioned before he loved playing for the Yankees and Ralph Houk.  Twelve seasons in the major leagues is pretty impressive to me.

Bernie Allen is seventy-nine now and lives in Indiana.

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