Bernie Allen interview

Meet former Twins 2B Bernie Allen

Bernie Allen – Twins 2B from 1962 – 1966 (courtesy of Twinscards.com)

Bernard Keith “Bernie” Allen was born in East Liverpool, Ohio on April 16, 1939. Bernie was 6’0” and about 185 pounds, threw right handed but was a left handed batter. Bernie attended Purdue University and was an outstanding QB for three years on their football team that in 1960 defeated the national champion Minnesota Gophers. Bernie signed with the Minnesota Twins as a free agent and only played in the minors for 80 games in 1961 with Charlotte in the Sally League before making his debut in Minnesota in 1962 replacing the well known Billy Martin as the Twins 2B. Allen was selected as a Topps 1962 All-Star rookie after the 1962 season. A variety of injuries took their toll and as Bernie Allen’s offensive stats started to suffer, Bernie was traded to Washington after the 1966 season and he played for the Senators for five seasons before being traded to the Bronx and the New York Yankees. Allen was sold to the Montreal Expos in 1973 and retired from baseball after the 1973 season and wrapped up a nice 12 year major league career.
 
John – Bernie, you were the starting quarterback for the Purdue Boilermakers from 1958 through 1960 and I believe your Purdue team beat our undefeated Minnesota Gophers in 1960 23-14 at Memorial Stadium. Although the Gophers lost to Washington in the Rose Bowl 17-7 that year, they were still named the national champions, the last time the Gophers have accomplished that feat. What do you remember about that game?  

Bernie – I remember Bobby Bell hurting my ribs that day with a hard tackle. I remember that I called quite a few audibles that day at the line because I was keying on a linebacker. I remember the plane I was on after the game had to make an emergency landing in Madison, Wisconsin because one of the two engines was on fire. We missed the celebration on campus.
 
John – You chose to play baseball versus football after college. Was that an easy decision for you? 

Bernie – It was easy for me, I always wanted to play pro baseball.
 
John – I understand that you signed with the Minnesota Twins organization for a $50,000 signing bonus in 1961? That was a lot of money back then, can you tell us how that came about? 

Bernie – A person could sign with any team back then. I narrowed my choices down to the Twins and the New York Mets. The Mets were coming in the league in 1962. I thought the Twins had some good young players and the second baseman (Billy Martin) had some age.
 
John – You only played 80 games and had 291 at bats in the minors hitting .241 for Charlotte in the Sally league in 1961 before you made the major league club in the spring of 1962, can you tell us what happened that spring that helped you make the team? 

Bernie – I went to spring training thinking that I would start the season in Triple A. I played some good games and the Twins decided to keep me and released Billy Martin. Billy taught me how to play second base. The Twins would have had to pay Billy quite a bit more than they would me.
 
John – What was it like to be a ‘bonus baby” in spring training with the big club with so little minor league experience? How did the Twins veterans treat you? 

Bernie – The experience I gained by playing Big Ten football helped me in competing for a position in spring training. The veterans helped me a lot and treated me very well. As I said before, Billy Martin worked with me every day.
 
John – You had a great year in 1962 in your rookie season playing in 159 games hitting .269 with 27 doubles and 12 home runs.  I think Topps named you to their All-Star Rookie team after that season. How would you describe your first season of major league baseball? 

Bernie – I was living a dream. Everybody helped me all year and I was enjoying my life, I was having fun.
 
John – It turned out that your rookie season was your best season, at least statistically speaking, what happened in 1963? 

Bernie – I was told I had to change my hitting stance. They wanted me to hit with more power and pull the ball. I hit the ball harder, but I kept hitting balls right at the fielders. That is why Tony Oliva still calls me a dumb hitter.
 
John – In June of 1964 you were seriously injured (torn knee ligaments) in a play at second base when Don Zimmer slid into you as you were getting off a throw to first. What do you remember about that day?  

Bernie – I remember that the infield grass in DC Stadium was high and slowed up ground balls. It was a hit and run. Chuck Hinton hit a ground ball to Zoilo, who gave me a lob throw. I stretched out like a first baseman to just get an out and Don Zimmer threw a cross-body block on me. I lost my AC and my MC. I was carried off the field.
 
John – During the Twins 1965 World Series season you only played in 39 games due to recurring knee pain. What was going on with your knee that season? 
 
Bernie – To be truthful with you, I couldn’t feel much in my knee for two years. I was told by the doctor who operated on me, that he would give me a 50/50 chance of playing any sport again and zero chance of playing baseball again. I broke my thumb in 1965, also.
 
John – From what I can see you did not play in the 1965 World Series, were you hurt or not on the roster or what happened? Did you get a World Series ring? 

Bernie – I sat in the stands watching the World Series with a broken thumb and Calvin wouldn’t give me a ring.
 
John – After the 1966 season saw you only playing in 101 games and getting 319 at bats and sharing 2B with Cesar Tovar, you apparently asked for a trade. How did that conversation go with Calvin Griffith? What kind of relationship did you have with Mr. Griffith?
 
Bernie – Calvin Griffith and I didn’t have much of a relationship after fighting over my treatment of the knee injury. I won’t go into all that was said, but it is the reason I became a player rep.
 
John – Your manager during your stay in Minnesota was Sam Mele, what kind of a manager was he to play for?  

Bernie – I enjoyed playing for Sam. He is the one that gave me my opportunity to play and I am grateful. He let you play.
 
John – What do you remember most about playing at Met stadium? 

Bernie – Some cold games and the big mosquitoes. The great fans.
 
John – Are there any funny or particularly interesting stories that happened to you while you were a Minnesota Twin that you would like to share with us? 

Bernie – Yes, but it would take too much space writing them.
 
John – In December of 1966 you and Camilo Pascual were traded to the Washington Senators for pitcher Ron Kline. Did you feel you were being punished by being traded to Washington? 

Bernie – YES
 
John – One of your managers in Washington was Ted Williams. What was it like to play for him and how would you rate Williams as a manager compared to other managers that you played for?
 
Bernie – Ted was great hitter and a great personality, but not a manager of people.
 
John – You played for the Senators for 5 seasons before being traded to the Yankees and finally the Montreal Expos where you played your final major league game in September 1973. Was it time to do something else or did injuries just take their toll on you?
 
Bernie – My body told me that it was time to do something else. Baseball wasn’t fun, it was hard work.
 
John – I read somewhere that you served as a player rep on some of your teams and were actually one of the leaders in a plan to have players refuse to sign their 1968 contracts in order to have MLB improve the player’s pension fund. Then in 1969 you started speaking out against baseballs reserve clause a full five years before free agency came into play. Can you share any more information on this with us? 

Bernie – I was a player’s rep and was involved in different negotiations, but I wouldn’t say I was the leader.
 
John – Who was the best player (hitter or pitcher) you ever saw play the game and what in your mind made him the best player? 

Bernie – Mickey Mantle. He had power and speed, and more speed.
 
John – If you could have played baseball in any era, would you choose to play when you did or at some other time and why?
 
Bernie – I love playing when I did.
 
John – What was your highest annual salary and what team was it with? 

Bernie – $33,000.00 with the 1973 Yankees.
 
John – You were with the Yankees in 1972 and part of 1973, what was it like to play for the Yankees?
 
Bernie – It was truly different than playing in the other towns I played in. You felt like you were part of history.
 
John – The Twins are building a new ballpark that will be open in time for the 2010 season and will be called “Target Field” but will be an open air stadium with no roof, what are your thoughts on an open air stadium in Minneapolis based on your playing at Met Stadium? 
 
Bernie – I think all games should be played in an open air stadium.
 
John – What are your thought on the steroids and HGH controversy that has plagued baseball for the last few years?
 
Bernie – I don’t like drugs and I think baseball should get tougher on drugs.
 
John – Do you follow baseball and the Twins today?
 
Bernie – I don’t follow baseball very closely. I look to see how the Twins and Yankees are doing.
 
John – What do you miss the most about being a professional baseball player?
 
Bernie – All the great times with your teammates. Those relationships are special.
 
John – A lot of us baseball fans are playing fantasy baseball today, do you participate?
 
Bernie – NO
 
John – What did you do after you were done playing baseball?
 
Bernie – I was in the sporting business for 12 years. For 17 years, I sold industrial ceramics.
 
John – What do you do today Bernie? 
 
Bernie – I work part time at a golf course and play in quite a few golf outings across the nation.
 
John – Anything you would like to say to the Twins fans here In Minnesota Bernie?
 
Bernie – I have always loved the people in Minnesota. They have treated me very well. Fans were nice to me after Purdue beat the U in 1960 in football. They said they didn’t like the U getting beat, but we had played better that day and they congratulated me. That was a big factor in me signing with the Twins in 1961.
 
John – I don’t think you have ever been back for any Minnesota Twins events like the Twins FanFest, etc., any reason why?  

Bernie – I have never been invited.
 
John – Thank you so much Bernie for taking the time to do this Q&A, we really appreciate your time and we thank you for the great memories.
 
There is a very nice story in the May 21, 1962 issue of Sports Illustrated about Bernie and his good friend and former Twins 3B, Rich Rollins. The link to the story can be found here  

4 Responses to Bernie Allen interview

  1. Dave Parent says:

    Having played baseball with Bernie at Purdue I can tell you that Bernie was one of most genuine human beings on this earth! Great athlete! Even greater person!

  2. Denny Dyer says:

    Today, May 5, 2014 as I reflect on the passing of one of major league baseball’s elder statesmen, Don Zimmer, Bernie Allen comes to mind. I was twelve years old in 1962, the Twins second season in Minnesota. I followed the Twins closely and lived and died with each win and loss. I remember that game with the Washington Senators in which a very hard nosed Don Zimmer went out of his way to take Bernie Allen, to break up a double play. I remember Twins announcers Ray Scott and Halsey Hall’s condemnation of Zimmer for his needless and mean spirited collision with Bernie. Up to that point, the two Twins rookies, Bernie Allen and Rich Rollins were the catalyst that changed the near cellar dwelling Twins of 1961 into a second place, ( in a then 10 team American League), contender. Bernie never fully recovered and Twins fans and Bernie himself were robbed of his true baseball potential. The current Twins management should be mindful of this fact, and dedicate a day in his honor.

  3. Mark Roettger says:

    I had a chance today to spend about 30 minutes time with Frank Quilici at a Team Smiles event in St Paul as a part of All Star Game festivities. I remembered that it was Don Zimmer who had injured Bernie Allen in a double play break up, because I tore up all of my Zimmer baseball cards after the incident. I asked Frank if he remembered that it was Zimmer who had collided with Bernie and he didn’t, since he was in triple A ball at the time. But he was certainly grateful for his time as a Twin taking over for Bernie and Jerry Kindall at second base

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