From a distance early yesterday morning on the Bowie backstretch, the man mucking out Stall 15 in Barn One looked like any other groom. He had a thick, heavy beard. His work pants were blue denim: his shirt dark maroon. He cap was knit in the shape of a saucer, with a little knob on top.
Up close, where a visitor could see the strong touch he applied to a pitchfork, the man's physique gave him away. Power oozed from every fiber of his body. He looked strong enough to have hammered 351 home runs during a 15-year major league career.
Which was as it should be, because Dick Allen, formerly of five ball clubs, currently is holding down the cleanup position for Allen Enterprises, Inc., a racing stable.
Hank Allen, who once played the outfield for the Washignton Senators, is the trainer. Brothers Ron. Coy and Caesar share in the ownership fo the thoroughbreds. Right now, the horses are running good. Too good, in fact, to allow Dick Allen the privacy he desires.
Contract Me was second in a race at Bowie Friday. Svengali won the Second race Saturday. Six of the Allen Enterprises' runners are at Bowi. Twelve more are being freshened on the Allens farm near Allentown, Pa.
One "Richard Q. Allen" once signed a tab for $61,000 at the Keeneland Yearling Sales. Allen stood out at Keeneland not because he was a baseball slugger but because he was a blackman spending big money in the white man's world of thoroughbred racing.
That expensive gray colt he brought, by Never Bend out of a Swaps mare, was named Briar Bend. He proved to be a decent sort of 3-year-old, winning six of nine races, but never returned his purchase price.
More recently, Allen Enterprises has turned to claiming other owners' horses. Hank haltered the 3-year-old filly Island Search for $8,500 at Pimlico last spring. She has won five races while steadily moving up in class.
Just why, however, would Dick Allen, who walked out on Charley Finley and his A's in July, be spending all his time with horses these days when he still might have a few seasons left in baseball? Why did he walk out on Oakland this season, and all that money, in order to be with his horses?
He doesn't bet much on them, they say. Maybe it's because he preferred a thoroughbred, any thoroughbred, to Charlie O's mule. Allen won't say because he says he doesn't wish to talk for publication.
Horses have always been an important part of the Allen boys' dream, we're told. Their father was born and raised on a farm near King George, Va. He dreamed of owning a racing stable, but he was a trucker raising five boys and three girls in Wampum, Pa., north of Pittsburgh. But he was able to buy a five-acre lot on which the children could have a horse or two to ride.
The Allens had a garden and chickens in Wampum. The father is dead now, although the mother still lives there. And Dick Allen, having tired of all the publicity and the controversy that surrounded him in baseball, wants desperately to be left alone.
Allen Enterprises has campaigned in Chicago and in Florida, at Santa Anita and at Keystone, on the Jersey circuit and, finally, set up camp for this meeting in Maryland.
It would be quiet in Maryland, Allen thought. He could be himself, enjoy his horses. Then the stable won a race and the phones began to ring. Magazines, newspapers, television.
Could they do the Dicka Allen racing story?
No, they could not, they were informed.
We're told Dick Allen is a simple man. Not really introverted, if you know him. He says his prayers at night, wishes everybody well, and wishes only that everybody would leave him alone. He doesn't know if he will be back hitting baseballs next year or not. It's 50-50. he and Finley remain on good terms.
No hard feelings, particularly on the backstretch at Bowie.