Sports: Me ’n’ Richie

As a kid in Havertown, filmmaker Mike Tollin was in awe of controversial Phillies star Dick Allen. In an excerpt from a work-in-progress screenplay, Tollin details Allen’s place in the city — and how his own idol-worship transformed into a real relationship

Fast-paced series of images shows highlights and lowlights from Richie’s next five years with the Phillies; fans boo as Richie comes to bat; he hits one over the roof, and the same fans cheer. Michael celebrates his bar mitzvah as Ruthellen and Sol look on admiringly from opposite sides of the temple; Allen, traded to St. Louis, insists on being called “Dick Allen.” Then on to the Dodgers, the White Sox (where he wins an MVP), back to the Phillies in ’75, then to Oakland to finish out his career with the A’s in ’77.

FADE-UP GRAPHIC: June 1977, Oakland, California

In the far corner of the cramped and spartan dressing quarters sits Richie, now 35, wearing a home A’s jersey that says “Wampum” — his hometown — instead of his name on the back. The shirt is open, and Richie sits pensively, smoking a cigarette and sipping a beer. Michael, now a 21-year-old senior at nearby Stanford University, enters the room tentatively, carrying a microphone and an audiocassette recorder. He spots his boyhood hero and slowly walks in his direction. His hands shake as he pushes the “record” button and extends the microphone.

Michael: In the seventh inning, Perry got you on a curve in the dirt. Were you expecting a fastball?

Richie takes a drag of the cigarette. Then a sip of the beer. He stares straight ahead.

Michael (continued): What do you think the A’s have to do to turn things around?

Still no response. Michael slowly retreats from Allen’s locker, shell-shocked. It’s been almost 14 years since the “imprinting” of that autumn afternoon in ’63, and now this? Michael sets his tape recorder on the concrete floor beneath one of the wooden benches. New approach — friendly, non-media, longtime admirer. He walks slowly and tentatively toward Allen, who remains seated, still engrossed in his two vices.

Michael (continued): Hi, Dick, I wanted to say hello. I’m from Philadelphia.

The hint of a smile, and Richie Allen makes a quarter-turn in Michael’s direction.

Richie: Ah, sorry about that.

(Hard to tell if he’s kidding.)

Richie (continued): What part?
Yeah, okay. What are you, Jewish?

(Michael pretends not to hear the question. Why is he asking that? He can’t possibly be asking that.)

Richie (continued): So, you Jewish?
Michael: Uh, yeah … I am.
Well all right, God’s Chosen People! Sit down, hoss, have a beer.

The two men, from Wampum and Havertown, drink, talk, and laugh heartily. Michael is giddy. There is clearly a connection between the two Philly expatriates, and it feels to Michael like the beginning of a deep friendship.

Almost a full decade passes, and Richie and Michael transition into new lives. Michael returns to Philadelphia to begin his career as a filmmaker. He then moves to New York, first working for Major League Baseball Productions, then starting his own production company. Richie, now retired as a player, focuses on his other passion, horses, and dips in and out of baseball as a coach. They stay in touch, largely through Michael’s quest to write a book with Richie.