October 6, 1976:
Arriving in Philadelphia in the early 1960’s, Tony Taylor and Dick Allen could not have had different relationships with the city. Taylor, a Cuban that arrived in a 1960 trade, immediately endeared himself to Philadelphia fans. A solid but unspectacular infielder, his initial stint with the team was so fondly remembered that he found himself inducted to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2002. Allen, a Wampum, PA native, signed as an amateur in 1960 and was named Rookie of the Year in 1964. While Allen’s career numbers warrant serious Hall of Fame consideration, his battles with racism and his own personal demons have made him perhaps the most controversial player of the 1960’s. And though Allen, too, can be found on the Phillies Wall of Fame, it can be argued that his reputation has prevented his career from receiving its proper due.
After several years away from the team, both found themselves back in the City of Brotherly Love by the mid-seventies. Tony Taylor received a hero’s welcome, though his career was largely over. However, time had not healed the icy relationship between the Phillies and Allen, who was nearing the end as well. A career filled with injuries, confrontation and alcohol had taken their toll on Allen, and with his skills diminished, so too had management’s patience. Though there were occasional bright spots, like Allen receiving a standing ovation during his first game back, the reunion was largely problematic.
1976 found the Phillies on the upswing. A young core featuring Mike Schmidt, Gary Maddox and Larry Bowa had led the team to their first postseason berth since the 1950 Whiz Kids. While Allen had contributed to the team’s success, 40 year-old Tony Taylor appeared in only twenty-six games and was in danger of being left off of the playoff roster. Allen, who had been in a season long battle with manager Danny Ozark and was notified that he would not be returning in 1977, made it known that if his longtime friend was left off the roster, he would respond by refusing to appear in the playoffs. This threat was one of a number of Allen-related incidents toward the end of the season, including his refusal to celebrate with his teammates after clinching a playoff berth and then electing to go home while his teammates played in St. Louis. For his part, the first baseman would eventually apologize for any trouble he caused.
After these incidents found the team nearly divided along racial lines, with Larry Bowa and Tug McGraw speaking out against Dick Allen, Phillies management gave in slightly. Though he did not play, Tony Taylor was named to the coaching staff for the 1976 NLCS, where the Phillies were swept by the Cincinnati Reds. Taylor would find himself on the coaching staff again in 1977, while Allen would finish his career with the Oakland Athletics. Surprisingly, years later, Dick Allen would go on to call the 1976 Phillies the most talented team he ever played on.