Allen excelled for two-plus decades
Second baseman shone in the field and at the plate
Mention the Kansas City Monarchs, and the name most likely to first come to mind is Satchel Paige.
It would be foolish to argue that the flamboyant Paige, a Hall of Fame pitcher, didn't deserve the attention that goes to a man whose career left the legacy on professional baseball that his surely did. But to think of the Monarchs as Paige's team alone would be a mistake.
They were a professional team with many star players, and second baseman Newt Allen was one of their brightest.
In fact, Allen was a star long before Paige threw his first pitch in K.C. Allen was the team's longtime captain, guiding the Monarchs to four Negro National League pennants in the 1920s.
His accomplishments have earned Allen consideration this month, along with 38 other players and executives from black baseball, for induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A 12-member panel will announce on Feb. 27 who among the 39 eligible will be admitted.
Bob Kendrick, director of marketing for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, says the panel should find plenty of reasons to induct Allen.
"Newt Allen, from all the accounts I have gotten, should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer -- the best infielder of the '20s and '30s, whether blue, red, green or yellow," Kendrick said. "There have been very few to dispute how great he was."
During his glory years, Allen indeed was as good as it got as an infielder. From 1924-30, his batting average ranged from .259 to .345. Defensively, he had soft, quick hands and was superb at turning double plays.
Allen's talents first caught Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson's eye in 1921. At the time, he was playing for the Omaha Federals, a semipro team. Wilkinson quickly signed him to play for a Minor League team, All-Nations, in 1922. Allen didn't stay with All-Nations long. He took the field with the Monarchs the same year.
He played nine seasons for the Monarchs. In 1931, he signed with the St. Louis Stars after the Monarchs left the Negro National League. With Hall of Fame shortstop Willie Wells as his double-play partner, Allen helped the Stars win the Negro National League title that year.
During the '32 season, Allen played for three teams, the Detroit Wolves, the Homestead Grays and the Monarchs, who had become an independent team.
By 1937, the Monarchs had moved to the Negro American League, and Allen, though past his prime, guided them to another dynasty. They won five pennants in six years from 1937-42. Allen made the All-Star Game four times, and he managed the Monarchs for one season.
"When I got there, Newt was in his mid-30s, but even after 16 years, he was an excellent second baseman, and he had six more good years left in him," Negro Leagues star Buck O'Neil, chair of the Negro Leagues Baseball museum, wrote in his 1996 autobiography, "I Was Right on Time."
After the '44 season, Allen retired. He returned to baseball in 1947 as manager of the Indianapolis Clowns. He retired again after the season. But he left behind a splendid career to remember.
Baseball historian James A. Riley, who wrote "The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues," said the slick-fielding Allen defined the position of a second baseman during the 1920s and '30s.
"Although playing primarily at the keystone sack, he was a fine infielder at any position," Riley wrote of Allen. "He was quick in the field and on the bases, and was an aggressive base runner who utilized his speed to take extra bases as well as to steal bases."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Bill Ladson contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.