Sunday, June 26, 2016

Meet the Brewers #28: Hank Allen

As the 1970 season progressed, GM Marvin Milkes turned the team over and over and over again. It is unclear if Milkes was instructed to eliminate virtually any reference to the Brewers' past as the Seattle Pilots, if he thought he was improving the team, or if he mistook activity for improvement. From the contemporaneous stories from The Sporting News (which I now have available due to reactivating my membership in SABR), Milkes probably thought he was improving things but the reality is closer to the latter of those three.

One of the men who cycled through Milwaukee in those activity-filled days of May in 1970 joined the team thanks to a trade on May 10. The Ted Williams-managed Washington Senators were in Milwaukee for a three game series played in two days over the weekend of May 9 and 10. The Senators lost all three games in walk-off fashion. 

Midway through the second game of the Sunday doubleheader, the Brewers traded outfielder Wayne Comer to the Senators for infielder Ron Theobald and Brewer #28, Hank Allen. Comer was informed of the trade when he came back to the clubhouse during that second game and found his locker -- except for his street clothes -- had been cleaned out. He later went into the game for Milwaukee and grounded out before joining his new Washington Senator teammates. 

1994 Miller Brewing Milwaukee Brewers
Harold Andrew Allen was born in Wampum, Pennsylvania, on July 23, 1940. Allen was one of nine children and was the oldest of the three Allen brothers who played major league baseball. Of the three, Hank was the second-most well-known by far after his younger brother, 1964 Rookie of the Year and 1972 AL MVP Dick/Richie Allen. The youngest of the three -- Ron Allen -- was the least accomplished, receiving only 14 plate appearances as a St. Louis Cardinal in 1972. Ron's only hit in the majors, though, was a home run!

Both Dick and Hank started their careers at Elmira in 1960 in the Phillies organization. The Phillies in the 1960s were not known as a racially progressive organization, and it took being a superstar to get noticed. Thus, Dick moved up quickly and made the major leagues at the age of 21 in 1963. Hank, on the other hand, was not quite as good as Dick and moved up more slowly. Indeed, it took having his contract purchased from Philadelphia by the Washington Senators for him to make the big leagues.

Hank was never a great hitter in the major leagues, but he was good enough to hang around the fringes of the majors from 1966 through 1973 (with a year off in 1971 in which he only played 13 games in Triple A in the Atlanta Braves system before being released). He hit .241/.281/.312 in the major leagues in 938 plate appearances with just 6 homers.

In 1970, he lasted for just over a month as a Milwaukee Brewer prior to being sent to the minor leagues. In that month, he got 14 starts and hit .246/.317/.316. For reasons that are not clear to me, Allen was sent to Triple-A Rochester in the Orioles system in 1970 -- was he on loan? He went to Rochester apparently as part of the Brewers' trade with the O's to receive Dave May, but he was not a part of the trade. Weird. He got a September call-up from Milwaukee, but then was traded to the Braves.

After the 1971 year off, Hank signed in September of 1972 with the Chicago White Sox. Perhaps the Sox made that move to placate their MVP Dick Allen. Hank retired after the 1973 season.

Since his retirement, Hank has had two different lives. For part of the early 2000s, he served as a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers and, later, for the Houston Astros. However, he has had a more high profile -- and perhaps unexpected -- career in another field: thoroughbred training. 

Brother Dick owned some horses while both were in Chicago, so Hank went to Arlington Park to check them out after his brother prodded him to do so. Intrigued, Hank met the then-ninety-plus year-old African-American trainer Nathan Cantrell and asked him to teach him his trade. Hank made brother Ron his stable foreman, and then turned horses into the way he made his living -- and did extremely well. Indeed, in 1989, Hank became the first black trainer since 1911 to saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby when his horse Northern Wolf finished sixth behind winner Sunday Silence. 

After getting back in baseball for a little while after a bad 1998 (0 wins in 10 starts), though, Hank went back to the horses earlier this decade. In 2013, he trained a horse called Blessed Soul and entered her into a few races at Laurel Park in Maryland.

Apropos of that, here's a video of Blessed Soul training:

Thanks to his very short career with the Brewers, and as best I can tell, that 1994 Miller Brewing Commemorative card above is the only card of Hank Allen as a Milwaukee Brewer. No matter -- his story in horse racing is far more interesting!

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