Monday, May 9, 2011
#245) NEIL ALLEN
Neil Allen was selected by the New York Mets organization in the 11th round of the free agent draft on June 8, 1976. The right-hander moved through the minor-league system and into the Mets' rotation. He made his major-league debut as the starting pitcher facing the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium on April 15, 1979. Allen surrendered three earned runs in six innings of work and suffered the 6-3 loss.
Following a few more challenging starts, he found his true path to big-league success. The Mets moved Neil to the bullpen and he became the club's closer. Allen saved 22 games for New York during the 1980 season. That total placed him fourth among National League relief pitchers. Neil added 18 more saves during the strike-shortened 1981 campaign. The star reliever earned National League Player of the Week honors on both July 6, 1980 and August 23, 1981.
Allen left the New York Mets in arguably one of the greatest trades in team history. He was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Rick Ownbey in exchange for Keith Hernandez on June 15, 1983. Hernandez became a leader of the 1986 World Championship team. Neil says that years later he often jokes with New York Mets officials, "You wouldn't have gotten him without me. Where's my ring?"
The trade also allowed Neil Allen another baseball distinction. He is rumored to have been the only pitcher in major-league history to technically strike himself out. The story has it that Allen was at the plate with two strikes when the game was delayed by rain. When the Cardinals and Mets completed the contest it was only after St. Louis had acquired Neil from New York. The tale continues that Neil struck out the Mets batter replacing him that day. This would have made Allen both the "official" batter and pitcher of that play. The only problem is the teams never completed a suspended game that year. As with all good myths, a rainout on April 8th at Shea Stadium helps fuel the legend. Maybe even confusing Mr. Allen himself who talked about the incident in an interview in 2001. "It's not a record I really care about having, but I got it." Neil offered.
Neil Allen became a pitching coach following his active career. First with the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 1996 before joining the New York Yankees organization in 2000. Allen served as their major-league bullpen coach during the 2005 season. Neil joined the Tampa Bay Rays organization as a minor-league pitching coach in 2007.
Neil Allen signed his card in the set for me prior to the Durham Bulls and Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field on May 3, 2011.