Happy Allen Gives Cards Rich
By Bob Broeg
Post-Dispatch Sports Editor
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Spring Training Game"
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 20 – Richie Allen, pulling up at third base on Joe
Hague’s short double to the right field in the sixth inning yesterday, grinned and
told coach George Kissell, "I haven’t had this much fun playing in years."
The attitude and aptitude of Allen continues to be the brightest development of an
otherwise uncertain spring for the Cardinals, who snapped a three-game losing streak when
they topped the Minnesota Twins yesterday, 3-1.
Bob Gibson, impressing Minnesota manager Bill Rigney as ready for the bell right now,
pitched on a warm , humid afternoon as if it were opening day. Gibby worked seven innings,
scattered three hits and got the only defensive lift he needed when Lou Brock made a good
one-handed running catch with two on base in the fifth.
Gibson, shrugging off a twisted right ankle he suffered when he stepped in a hole near
the mound as he broke to cover third base, could have worked longer, because he was
getting by with few pitches.
Dripping perspiration as he sat at his locker, the Cardinals’ 34-year-old meal
ticket of the mound winced and clutched his right elbow.
"Sure, it hurts," he said. "It always hurts. I can’t remember a
time since 1963 when it hasn’t hurt during a game or right after it."
Allen, presumably, can’t remember baseball as having been much fun since 1964, his
first full year, but he’s having a time for himself here. And, the way he looks and
acts, the Cardinals could profit considerably.
In yesterday’s game the 28-year-old slugger produced his second home run in two
exhibitions with the Redbirds’ and also singled. He batted only three times.
Facing veteran righthander Jim Perry in the second inning, the righthanded-hitting
Allen hit a fly ball far over the 385-foot sign in the right-center. It looked as if he
hit the ball with an inside-out swing.
Allen nodded, "I thought he’d throw me off-speed breaking stuff," he
said, "and my timing isn’t right, so I was afraid I’d be out in front of
the ball. By trying to go to the right field, I thought I’d wait on the pitch better.
The pitch was in on me."
Allen’s ability to hit an inside pitch so far to the opposite field is only one of
the amazing things about an athlete apparently determined to prove his reputation as a
baseball bad boy was only a result of geographical coincidence.
Allen has astonished Cardinal coaches by his application to the task of getting ready
for the season. Every time he hits in the batting cage before the game, he picks up his
glove and takes a turn hasn’t had too much trouble around the spacious outfield
before going to first base to field ground balls.
After yesterday’s pregame practice, Rich walked into the clubhouse, peeled off his
uniform and wrung out the perspiration from his soaked sweatshirt.
"That’s not beer," he said smiling, "but maybe Mr. Busch
wouldn’t want me to say that."
Gibson, walking by, had the kind of complaint that won for the pitching ace No. 1
agitator award given by physical culturist Walter (Doc) Eberhardt.
"I can’t swing that bat you gave me," Gibson moaned. "It swung
Allen uses a 40-ounce bat, the kind that was swung by some hitters before World War II
but is considerably heavier than most players use now.
Allen plays with large-lensed glasses that give him a bulging-eyed frogman look. He
explained that his vision had suffered since he was struck squarely in the left eye with a
pitch in 1960, in his first professional season.
The ball lacerated the left eyebrow, which is scarred. The eyelid droops, as Allen
pointed out, but the nearsighted power-hitter hasn’t had too much trouble doing his
After he had done his thing and was excused after the sixth inning yesterday, he did a
turn around the outfield and then repaired to the heat of the training-room whirlpool, to
sweat some more.
"I was heavier than I thought I’d be when I came in, about 203," said
the controversial player who took his first Redbird workout a week ago today.
"I’m down now to about 196, just a little over my best weight."
As the hot water of the whirlpool surged around his strong back, Allen subjected
himself pleasantly to an interview from a visiting writer who persisted with one of the
staple questions. What was his personal goal this season?
"Win, win, win," Richie smiled, giving his standard answer, patiently.
But, surely, the reporter persisted, he must have an individual goal.
"Team effort will go 50,000 miles farther than individual effort," said
Richie Allen, who not only is doing the right things right now, but saying them, too.