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

FADE-UP GRAPHIC: March 1986, Sarasota, Florida

Downscale establishment, a notch above a diner. Richie and Michael sit in a booth. Richie, now 44, puts on his glasses so he can read from a letter.

Richie: (pointing to letter) This guy here says he wants to write a book on me. Philly sportswriter, that’s got to be trouble, huh.

They share a laugh.

Michael: Well, so do I, as I’ve been telling you for years.
(taking a drag of his cigarette and a sip of beer) All right then, Stanford, let’s do it. You and me.

He puts out his hand for a soul shake. Michael takes it, ecstatic with the realization of a long-held dream.

Michael and Richie, half a generation apart in age and a world apart in so many ways, continue to grow closer. But their book project gets derailed when that “Philly sportswriter” lands a more substantial financial offer than Michael can muster, and Richie decides to go with the better dough. It’s a huge betrayal for Michael, one that leaves him deeply hurt, more personally than professionally.

In the corner of a dimly lit tavern, Richie and Michael sit with cocktails.

Michael: And you didn’t even think to call me? I mean, this is like giving a ring to a girl and then finding out from someone else that she’s marrying some other guy!
I’m sorry, Stanford. You’re right. Meant to call you. My bad, hoss. My bad.

Michael can barely listen. He turns away, trying to hide his emotions. He knows that’s all he’s going to get from Richie. He is trying to process it, trying to find forgiveness.

By the early 1990s, both men have moved to Los Angeles, and Michael conspires with Richie’s wife, Willa, to throw the kid from Wampum a 50th birthday party.

FADE-UP GRAPHIC: Sherman Oaks, California

Ranch house on a hill overlooking the San Fernando Valley. The hosts, Michael and his wife ROBBIE, mingle with friends from Philly, WILLA ALLEN, and friends of her husband. The guest of honor is expected at any time.

The party has thinned, as has Willa’s patience.

Willa: Well, I knew he was going to the track, but he said he was only going for a couple of races. I’m sure he’ll be here any minute.

The hosts nod and feign understanding.

Only Michael, Robbie and Willa remain. They say their goodbyes.

Robbie: (looking to comfort her husband) I’m sorry, honey. You okay?
Michael: Yeah, I figured he probably wouldn’t show.
Robbie: Then why did we have the party?
Michael: ’Cause he’s Richie Allen. He used to be my hero, and now he’s my friend. That’s good enough for me.

It’s been said there can be no greater sadness for a parent than the loss of a child. Richie Allen had three kids, two sons and a daughter named Terri, who was the great joy of his life. In 1991, Terri was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend.