Newton Henry Allen
Career: 1922 - 1947
Position: 2b, 3b, ss, of, 1b, manager
Teams: All Nations (1922), Kansas City Monarchs
(1922-1944), St. Louis Stars (1931), Detroit Wolves (1932), Homestead Grays (1932), voluntarily retired (1945-1946); Indianapolis Clowns (1947)
Height: 5'8'' Weight: 160
Born: May 19, 1901, Austin, Texas
Died: June 11, 1988, Cincinnati, Ohio
Considered the best second baseman during the 1920s and early 1930s, the wide-ranging, slick-fielding middle infielder had quick hands and was superb on the pivot in turning a double play. Although playing primarily at the keystone sack, he was a fine infielder at any position. He was quick in the field and on the bases, and was an aggressive base runner and a rough slider who utilized his speed to take extra bases as well as to steal bases. An excellent bunter and consistent hitter with good bat control who went with the pitch, he was an ideal player to have hit in the second slot in the lineup.
His twenty-three-year career was spent almost entirely with the Kansas City Monarchs. His progression to the Monarchs was rapid. While attending Lincoln High School in Kansas City, he helped organize an amateur team, the Kansas City Tigers, and soon graduated to the semipro ranks with the Omaha Federals in 1921, where he was discovered by J.L. Wilkinson, owner of both the Monarchs and the All Nations ballclub. Allen was assigned to the All Nations team, but at the end of his first season, 1922, he was promoted to the Monarchs.
In the first phase of his career, the second sacker sparked the defense and served as captain as the Monarchs captured Negro National League pennants in 1923-1925 and 1929. In 1924, the first World Series was held between the Negro National League and the Eastern Colored League, and Allen hit .282 with seven doubles as the Monarchs edged Hilldale in a hard-fought best-of-nine series that featured four one-run games and a tie. In a rematch the following season, Allen hit .259 as the Monarchs lost to Hilldale, after having defeated the St. Louis Stars in a playoff for the Negro National League flag. The next season the Monarchs lost their bid for a fourth straight pennant when they lost the league playoff to the Chicago American Giants by dropping a double-header on the last day, needing only one victory to win the pennant.
Three years later the Monarchs won their last Negro National League flag by decisively winning both halves of the split season. No World Series was held that season, and a year later the Monarchs disbanded temporarily. In addition to his Golden Glove performance in the field, the slender infielder hit for averages of .277, .308, .259, .334, .280, .330, and .345 for the previous seven seasons with the Monarchs (1924-1930).
The following season, Allen joined the St. Louis Stars, where he paired with fellow Austinite Willie Wells to form the best double-play combination in baseball. The Stars went on to win the last Negro National League pennant, with Allen returning to the Monarchs in late summer when they reorganized. He hit for a combined .274 average for the season, following with a .326 average the next year.
But the Depression years were hard ones for Allen and the Monarchs, as they began touring as an independent team after the demise of the Negro National League. During those years, records are sketchy, but the slick fielder hit .290 in 1936, the last season for the Monarchs as a traveling independent club.
In 1937 the Monarchs entered the newly formed Negro American League and promptly dominated it, winning five of the first six pennants, with Allen contributing averages of .363, .273, .255, .323, .305, and .272, respectively, during this last phase of his playing career. Just as he had played in the first World Series between the Eastern Colored League and the original Negro National League in 1924, he also played in the first World Series played between the Negro American League and the new Negro National League in 1942. The Monarchs defeated the great Homestead Grays, with Allen contributing a .267 batting average while playing third base.
Popular with the fans even in the latter years of his career, he was selected to the East-West All Star game four times, 1936-1938 and 1941, playing both second base and shortstop in the annual classic but going hitless for his four appearances.
Having served a stint as manager of the Monarchs in 1941, he took the reins of the Indianapolis Clowns for the 1947 season, his last year in the Negro Leagues. The superior gloveman proved to be more than adequate with a bat as well, finishing with a lifetime batting average of .296, being credited with a .301 average against major leaguers in exhibitions, and showing a .278 average for two winter seasons in Cuba. Allen's two winters on that island were separated by a dozen years, with him hitting .313 with Almendares early in his career (1924-1925) and .269 with Havana in the latter part of his career (1937-1938). During his career Allen also played winters in California, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela and toured the Orient in 1935-1936 with the Monarchs, playing exhibitions while touring Japan and the Philippines. After retiring from baseball, he participated in Kansas City Democratic Party politics.
Some controversy remains about whether Allen was a switch-hitter, but evidence indicates that while he probably batted from both sides early in his career, he abandoned the practice later in his career.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.