April 16th, 2013

April 16 – Happy Birthday Bernie Allen

ballenWhen Bernie Allen graduated from high school in his hometown of East Liverpool, OH, he was a good enough school-boy quarterback to get a scholarship offer from Purdue University. Problem was Bernie didn’t like playing football but he knew if he wanted to go to college, accepting that scholarship was the only way he’d be able to, so that’s what he did. During his time on the gridiron as a Boilermaker, he became one of the better QB’s in the Big Ten but he also got the opportunity to play collegiate baseball and become an All American in that sport. In early 1961, the Minnesota Twins made Allen one of the first amateurs signed by that team after it had relocated to the Twin Cities from our Nation’s capitol.

After just one year in the minors, he made the Twins big league roster during the team’s 1962 spring training season. Minnesota’s first year manager, Sam Mele liked his rookie infielder so much, he benched the veteran Billy Martin and started Allen at second base. Mele also installed a second rookie, third baseman Rich Rollins in his starting infield and the two first-year players helped the surprising Twins finish in second place with 91 wins, a 20-game improvement over the previous season. Bernie had 154 hits that year including 12 home runs, with 64 RBIs and finished third in the AL Rookie-of-theYear balloting. Though I was just 8-years-old at the time, I clearly remember that 1962 Minnesota team because in addition to battling my Yankees for the Pennant, every player in their starting lineup reached double figures in home runs that season.

Allen got off to a horrendously slow start at the plate in his sophomore season and his batting average was still under.200 by late August. He then hit .320 during the last six weeks of the ’63 season, saving his starting job in the process. But his potential to develop into a perennial big league All Star was wiped out with one play during the 1964 season. Attempting to turn a double play, Allen was bowled over by Don Zimmer who rolled over the second baseman’s leg. Allen had torn his ACL, but the injury was mis-diagnosed by Minnesota’a team doctors. When the leg didn’t get better, Allen got his own doctors to examine the knee and they made a correct diagnosis and operated five months after the injury occurred. By then however, the ligament had shriveled and the surgeon didn’t think Allen would ever again play baseball. He proved that doctor wrong but it does explain why all of Allen’s highest single-season offensive numbers took place during that 1962 rookie season. He was simply never the same player after Zimmer rolled his knee.

The Yankees got Bernie in 1972. The Twins had traded him to the Senators after the 1966 season and he played pretty regularly for Washington for five years, right up until that franchise moved to Texas. He then became Ralph Houk’s primary utility infielder during the 1972 season, appearing in 84 games, mostly as a third baseman, but hitting a paltry .227 in the process. It was that weak bat that got him sold to the Expos in August of 1973. When he hit just .180, the then 34-year-old Allen hung up his glove for good.

He shares his April 16th birthday with this former Yankee back-up catcher and this Hall-of-Fame outfielder.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1972 NYY AL 84 248 220 26 50 9 0 9 21 0 1 23 42 .227 .296 .391 .686
1973 NYY AL 17 62 57 5 13 3 0 0 4 0 0 5 5 .228 .290 .281 .571
12 Yrs 1139 3824 3404 357 815 140 21 73 351 13 16 370 424 .239 .314 .357 .671
MIN (5 yrs) 492 1789 1595 195 392 75 10 32 163 3 6 165 212 .246 .316 .366 .682
WSA (5 yrs) 530 1669 1482 126 351 52 11 30 154 10 9 172 161 .237 .317 .348 .665
NYY (2 yrs) 101 310 277 31 63 12 0 9 25 0 1 28 47 .227 .294 .368 .663
MON (1 yr) 16 56 50 5 9 1 0 2 9 0 0 5 4 .180 .255 .320 .575
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/15/2013.