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Monday, October 18, 2010

Snapshots From Twins Territory: Bernie Allen 1962

Everybody's All-American: Bernard Keith Allen, looking as 
if he was fresh out of Boy Scout Camp. Why his
mother let him out of the house, I'll never know.

 Use your imagination, and you can almost hear it...
Rookie Twins announcer Herb Carneal: "And Kaline grounds it to Rollins-he fields it, over to Allen, steps on second..on to Vic Power at first, and Kaline...he-eeesss's OUT, a double play..."
The Twins that summer, along with Bernie Allen,  were still fresh out of the box that summer of 1962. It was also the year of the Telstar Communications Satellite, The Cuban Missle Crisis, the release of the first Beach Boys single, "Surfin," the first African-American, James Meredith, to enroll and attend the University of Mississippi, and, by the way, the birth year of the blogger guy you know as The Twins Twinkler.

Second baseman Allen placed third in the American League Rookie of The Year Award voting in '62 (behind future Twin Buck Rodgers (2nd) and Tom Tresh (1st)). He was an All-American shortstop out of Purdue University, where he was also the Boilermakers starting QB.  He and his crew beat the Gopher football squad in 1960 at Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis by a score of 23-14. This game gave him an insight into Minnesota sports fans, with fair, good-natured treatement given him and his teammates as they left the field.  This factored into his thinking when he chose to sign with Calvin Griffith and the Twins.

He took Billy Martin's place at second, having a fine year , as the Baseball Reference site shows.  This was an accomplishment in that he merely avoided having the demure Martin bash his lights out.  But factored in too were his twelve homers and otherwise excellent offensive and defensive numbers, and you then had a candidate to fill the organization's ongoing second base vacuum. He was chosen for the 1962 Topps Rookie All Star Team. He appeared to have "the right stuff." Or, so it seemed...
Bernie Allen 1963 Volpe Portrait, Twins
Team Set. Disembodied heads frighten me.


Bernie Allen, 1963 Topps Card
 This May 21, 1962 article from Sports Illustrated, written by Walter Bingham, gives a fascinating insight into Allen, Rich Rollins, Sam Mele, and the early season Twins of that year.

 Unfortunately, the league pitchers adjusted to him, and his output dropped the next year, in '63.  Not surprising, as might be expected for a guy having only 327 plate appearances in 80 games.  It's a tough game! In 1964, he was injured while receiving a lousy throw* on a double play ball from the mercurial Zoilo Versalles, leaving him vulnerable to the hard slide from the baserunner, Don Zimmer.
*as described by Jim Thielman in "Cool Of The Evening"

His knee was shredded.  It eerily predated the injury Rod Carew would suffer six years later, ; on a similar play, the '69 Batting Champion was taken out by Brewers first baseman, Mike Hegan. Only after surgery and rigorous workouts did Sir Rodney resurrect his career!

Calvin Griffith's team doctor decreed that Allen didn't need surgery. As it turned out, quite the opposite was true.  Allen eventually was put under the care of orthopedic specialist Dr. Don O'Donoghue.  The same fellow eventually worked wonders with Gayle Sayers, Willis Reed and scores of other athletes. Looking back, it's tempting to slam the cork and yarn stuffing out of Griffith, but his inactivity was rather in line with the way club owners conducted in player affairs back in those days, going on the cheap. Months after the injury took place, Allen was finally put under the knife.


Fellow Purdue teammates and alumni
Joe McCabe and Bernie Allen,
Spring, 1964. PINSTRIPES!


 So out of sync with the current state of sports medicine, and giving the professional athletes every benefit of the doubt with each flinch and facial tic.  Sports teams today do everything possible to avoid risking permanent injury to one of their "investments." Now, it's not considered unusual for a current Twin like J.J. ("The Iron Horse") Hardy to start only 95 games out of 162 during the 2010 season, with his various ailments.


          A-Ha! Does my little eye spy Harmon Killebrew (3)
          and Vic Power (28)in the background?
 








  Ultimately, Allen's story is a one of a man who fought his way back. Only through intelligence, grit, and positive thinking did he return to baseball and the Twins. Pitching coach Johnny Sain bolstered his attitude with what we would today call "self-help books," a mode that had proven successful with Twin pitchers like Jim Kaat.  Sain was ahead of his time!

Allen's career never sulfilled the promise that it hinted in that summer of '62, but he did sustain a long career. He finished his career with the Yankees and then a few games with the Expos, in 1973 (see link above for stats). John Swol on his excellent Twins Trivia  site has posted an interview he conducted with Allen from a while back.  Not especially a man of many words at this time of his life!

May Your Taters Fly Far!
Twinkler Out




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