When he was a kid, in the mid-1960s, Mark (Frog) Carfagno went to about 40 Phillies games a year at Connie Mack Stadium. His favorite player was Dick Allen, because he hit long home runs.
What makes young Froggy's experience unique is that he eventually became a member of the Phillies' grounds crew, which gave him the opportunity to meet his boyhood idol. And to eventually become his friend. Now, some 50 years later, he's spearheading a campaign to get Allen on the Hall of Fame's Golden Era Committee ballot this year.
Carfagno is compiling information to send to the baseball writers who will determine which 10 players get on the ballot. He's gathering testimonials. He's even helped arrange for city councilman James Kenney to introduce a resolution backing Allen's candidacy to the Philadelphia City Council on Thursday.
This is one of the neat things about the Hall of Fame. Fans can -- and do -- lend support to their favorite players.
"There are a number of campaigns that pass through our office on an annual basis," said Brad Horn, vice president of communications and education at the Hall of Fame. "They're a part of the game, and they're a part of the fan's connection to what we do as an institution here in Cooperstown.
"I think it's fair to say that letters appear at our office on a weekly basis in support of [various candidates]. Many fans are passionate for either a modern candidate who might have fallen out of the baseball writers' window of eligibility within recent years, or it can be a 19th-century player who the individuals rally around. ... There's always someone who someone believes should be in the Hall of Fame who is not. At any given time, I'd say there are dozens of candidates who receive support and letters here."
All that information is available to those who participate in the process.
Every situation is different, of course, but Carfagno's back story is certainly interesting. He had dabbled in promoting Allen's induction, even taking over as site administrator for a Facebook page called "Dick Allen Belongs in the Hall of Fame!" But not much was happening until word got out that Allen's grandson would be playing for St. John Neumann Regional Academy in a state high school basketball game against a team from Philadelphia last month. That sparked renewed interest in the subject.
"The next thing you knew, it exploded. That's what really got it rolling," Carfagno said.
Even though Allen, 72, has made it clear that he will not campaign for the honor, Carfagno decided to press ahead. He has put together an impressive lineup of like-minded individuals who support Allen. He researched how the process works. The Veterans Committee is divided into three eras: Pre-Integration (1946 and earlier), Expansion (1973 and later) and Golden, which covers the years in between. The latter is the ballot for which Allen is eligible.
This year, Golden Era candidates will be considered. The 11-person Historical Oversight Committee, all members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, will consider eligible players and then submit a 10-player ballot that will be released after the World Series.
That's the group Carfagno is targeting at the moment. The 12-member Veterans Committee, which is reconstituted every three years, will then get together at the Winter Meetings in San Diego in December to vote. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive the same 75-percent support that a player on the regular BBWAA ballot requires.
Carfagno strongly believes that Allen has the necessary credentials. He understands that not everyone will agree. His arguments are based on facts -- statistics and comparisons to other players of Allen's generation.
Still, while his primary objective is to get Allen a plaque in Cooperstown, part of what drives Carfagno is to address what he considers a bad rap that Allen had in his playing days. Carfagno has stories to tell that run counter to Allen's public reputation.
In July 1971, Allen, then playing for the Dodgers, went to Veterans Stadium for a game against the Phillies. Carfagno saw Allen arrive four hours before the game and spend the next 3 1/2 hours with the grounds crew before then-coach Tommy Lasorda tracked him down. Despite not getting into his uniform until shortly before first pitch, Allen hit a monstrous home run off the Liberty Bell in center field.
In 1976, after Allen returned to the Phillies, the team called up a young outfielder named Rick Bosetti primarily to be a pinch-runner during the stretch drive. Sure enough, shortly after he arrived, Bosetti was called on to enter a game and was promptly picked off. The youngster was inconsolable.
"And there's Dick Allen, and he sees him, so comes up to him and he says, 'Come on back with me.' He takes him all the way in the back," Carfagno said. "There was a lounge chair, and he sat Bosetti in it and got a little bench to sit on. And he stayed there until 1:30, 2 o'clock in the morning to talk to that young man.
"The next day, the headline in the paper: "Dick Allen leaves ballpark early." That's crazy! I saw it with my own two eyes. But he don't say a word. Don't say nothing. Don't defend himself. That's the kind of guy he was."
Carfagno may be biased in Allen's favor, but that's all right. So is every baseball fan who believes his or her favorite player deserves to be enshrined among the best who played the game. And they have the ability, through the Hall of Fame, to make their voices heard.
For Carfagno, it all started a half-century ago when he marveled at how far Allen could hit a baseball.
href="mailto:email@example.comPaul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less