With the tenacity of a boxer, the mindset of a chess master, and the determination of a distance runner, Mark "Frog" Carfagno has developed a way to keep former Philadelphia Phillie slugger Dick Allen in the public's consciousness.
From the mind of Carfagno, whose "Dick Allen Belongs in the Hall of Fame" campaign has received a lot of support, comes an eye-catching idea that is bound to turn a few heads. Beginning Monday, an electronic billboard will be seen by travelers going westbound on Interstate 76 between Exit 347b and Exit 349 near the sports complex in South Philadelphia. Those going eastbound on Interstate 676 just .2 miles east of exit for Ben Franklin Bridge will also see a message. The billboards will be in rotation with other ads and will appear for eight seconds.
"We want people to remember Dick and all of the great things he did," Carfagno said. "We don't want people having accidents trying to read the signs."
Carfagno, who is also hoping to have a rally for Allen later this month, believed that Allen would win nomination for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in December. Those hopes ended on Aug. 24 when the Hall of Fame board of directors, citing the pandemic, voted unanimously to reschedule this winter’s two Era Committee elections.
Allen was expected to be on the Golden Days Ballot, which features candidates “whose primary contributions to the game came from 1950 to 1969.” If elected, Allen would have been enshrined in summer 2022. Now, with the voting pushed to the fall of 2021, it would appear the earliest Allen would be voted in is 2022.
That's not acceptable to Carfagno. He notes that Allen is now 78 years old and argues that time is not on the side of him and fellow worthy candidates such as Tony Oliva (82 years old), Maury Wills (88 years old) and former Phillies pitcher Jim Kaat (82 years old).
The Phillies retired Allen's number 15 uniform on Sept. 3.
"This has been a very difficult year," Carfagno said. "Six Hall of Famers — Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Whitey Ford, Lou Brock and Joe Morgan — have passed away this year. I want Dick and the others to be around for their enshrinement.
"They said they couldn't use zoom to meet, that everyone had to be in the room at one time. Yet, I see baseball is moving right along with giving out awards. I don't understand it," he added.
In 2014, Allen came close to enshrinement. A special Golden Era Veterans Committee, which at the time voted every three years, considered Allen for induction. To be elected, Allen had to appear on 75 percent of the ballots, or secure 12 of the 16 votes cast by the committee members. Allen received 11 votes and the committee didn’t elect anyone.
Carfagno and other Allen supporters were preparing for December 2017, when the Golden Era Committee was scheduled to vote again. But in 2016, the Hall restructured the committee, forming two voting groups — Modern Baseball (1970-1987), which will vote in December of this year, and Golden Days (1950-1969), which wasn’t vote until 2020.
Although Allen’s career spanned both eras, his candidacy was pushed back to 2020 because the Hall believed his “best years came with the Phillies in the 1960s.”
Actually, Allen’s achievements were evenly divided between both eras. He was an All-Star for seven seasons (1965-67, ’70, ’72-’74). In addition to winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1964, Allen was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1972 while playing for the Chicago White Sox.
During his 15-year major-league career, Allen batted .292, including seven seasons (1964-67, 1972-74) at the .300 mark or higher. He also hit a total of 351 home runs. Of those homers, 177 came with the Phillies in the 1960s but the rest were hit in the 1970s and included the only two times he led the American League in home runs (1972, 1974).
"We're going to get him in [the Hall of Fame]," Carfagno said. "We've got a lot of support for him. I believe the attention he's going to get from people seeing these billboards will prove my point."