In an era when hitting 30 home runs in a season was an extraordinary feat for a Cardinal, Richie Allen captivated St. Louis fans with his power.
Allen, in his lone season with St. Louis in 1970, was the first player to hit at least 30 homers in his first year with the Cardinals. In 2012, outfielder Carlos Beltran became the sixth to achieve the feat.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Allen (34 in 1970), Ron Gant (30 in 1996), Jim Edmonds (42 in 2000), Albert Pujols (37 in 2001), Lance Berkman (31 in 2011) and Beltran (32 in 2012) are the six players to hit 30 or more homers in their first seasons as Cardinals.
Allen was acquired for his power in the October 1969 trade that sent center fielder Curt Flood and catcher Tim McCarver from the Cardinals to the Phillies. (Flood refused to report and launched his historic court challenge against baseball.)
Dubbed by syndicated columnist Jim Murray as “the bad boy of baseball,” Allen had been suspended by the Phillies during the 1969 season after he failed to show for a doubleheader. He also had reported late for games. Wrote Murray: When someone pointed out to his former manager, Gene Mauch, that Richie was a loner, Mauch retorted bitterly, “Yeah. He’s fallen in with the wrong crowd.”
But Allen was on good behavior from the start with the 1970 Cardinals.
In St. Louis’ Opening Day game, a 7-2 victory over the Expos on April 8, 1970, at Montreal, Allen hit a home run and two doubles, driving in three. Boxscore
He hit 10 home runs in May and nine in July. His jaw-dropping blast at the Reds’ new Riverfront Stadium on July 27 caromed off the facing of the upper deck in left field. Boxscore
Allen ended July with 30 home runs. He became the eighth Cardinal to hit 30 and the first since Ken Boyer had 32 in 1960.
On Aug. 14, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Giants, Allen pulled a hamstring in his right leg while swiping second base. Boxscore
At the time, Allen had started all but one game of the Cardinals’ first 118, playing mostly at first base. (He also had played at third base and in left field.) With 33 home runs, he was on pace to hit 45, according to The Sporting News. The Cardinals’ record was 43 by Johnny Mize in 1940.
But Allen appeared in just five games (three as a pinch-hitter) after the injury.
After at-bats as a pinch-hitter on Aug. 23 and Aug. 25, Allen made his first start in more than three weeks on Sept. 8, the Cardinals’ final appearance that season at Philadelphia. Batting fourth and playing first base, Allen was 2-for-3 with a walk. In his final at-bat of the game, he hit a home run, his last as a Cardinal, off Rick Wise. Boxscore
With 34 home runs in just 122 games, Allen had hit the most by a Cardinal since Stan Musial had 35 in 1954. Allen’s total also was the most by a Cardinals right-handed batter since Rogers Hornsby hit 39 in 1925.
The Cardinals wanted Allen to continue receiving treatment on his leg in St. Louis. Allen wanted the work done in Philadelphia. After appearing in a game for the Cardinals at Pittsburgh Sept. 10, he never played in another for St. Louis.
Four days after the Cardinals completed the 1970 season with a 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the National League East, Allen was traded to the Dodgers for second baseman Ted Sizemore and catcher Bob Stinson.
St. Louis general manager Bing Devine told The Sporting News the trade had more to do with the Cardinals’ need for a second baseman to replace the aging Julian Javier than it did with unhappiness regarding Allen.
“Allen did everything we could hope for and more,” Devine said. “… If there was any major problem of morale, I was not aware of it and I’m sure I’d have been aware of it if there was. Allen’s a controversial guy and, naturally, if you’re looking to find something wrong about him, you can find it. But I can’t fault him. He was acquired to do a job at bat and on the field, and he did it.”
Said Allen: “I wanted one season that I could play in peace and I sure got to do that. The fans and the ballclub were wonderful. I just wish I could have done a little more to repay them all.”
In his book “Red: A Baseball Life” (1998, Sports Publishing), Red Schoendienst, the Cardinals’ manager in 1970, wrote of Allen: It was hard for right-handed hitters at that time to hit the ball to right-center with any authority, and he could do it. He had a reputation of being a difficult player, but he played hard for me. The only problem I had with him, and it was true throughout his career, is that he never seemed to play the last month of the season. He was always hurt or something was wrong.