Homer Happy: Bob Allison
For the better part of his career, it was Bob Alison’s misfortune to find himself batting after Harmon Killebrew, the most prolific home run hitter of the 1960s.
From 1961-1964, Bob Allison averaged 31 home runs and 96 RBIs per season.
Allison’s power statistics were regularly overshadowed by the beastly home run numbers that Killebrew consistently posted. Killebrew’s bat too often cleared the bases of runners who could have been Allison’s RBIs.
But Allison’s abilities were not overlooked by the American League pitchers who faced him, and who fed fastballs to Killebrew to avoid putting on base another potential run for Allison to bring home. The fact was, during the early 1960s, there were just too many lethal bats in the Minnesota Twins’ lineup for pitchers to issue free passes or make a mistake.
The Twins were the highest-scoring American League team of the 1960s, and Bob Allison was one reason why.
The Washington Senators signed Allison out of the University of Kansas in 1955. In four minor league seasons, Allison hit a total of only 28 home runs. But his .307 batting average in 1958 with Chattanooga in the AA Southern Association earned him a look with the Senators, and a spot on the Washington roster for 1959.
In his rookie season, Allison surprised everyone with his power. For 1959, he batted .261 with 30 home runs and 85 runs batted in, third on the team in both categories (behind Killebrew and Jim Lemon). Allison led the league with nine triples and was selected as American League Rookie of the Year.
In 1960 – the team’s last season in Washington, D.C. — Allison slipped to 15 home runs and 69 RBIs, though his 30 doubles were eighth best in the American League. His hitting rebounded when the Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 to play as the Twins. Allison hit 29 home runs and drove in 105 runs, a performance he nearly duplicated in 1962 when he again hit 29 home runs and drove in 102 runs. He also scored 102 runs in 1962, third most in the league.
Bob Allison had his best season in 1963, hitting 35 home runs with 91 runs batted in. He also led the league in scoring with 99 runs.
All this was accomplished while hitting behind Killebrew, who led the league in home runs (46) and RBIs (126).
Allison led the America League with 99 runs scored in 1963, hitting .271 with 35 home runs and 91 RBIs. It would be his highest single-season home run total, but Allison came close the following year with 32 home runs (and 86 RBIs).
Yet Allison’s productivity in the batter’s box was beginning a steady decline. In the Twins’ pennant-winning season of 1965, Allison (now 30) managed only 23 home runs with 78 RBIs on a .233 batting average. In 1966 he missed more than half the season with a broken left hand that limited him to eight home runs and 19 RBIs. He played full seasons in 1967 and 1968, hitting 24 and 22 home runs. He was a part-time player over his last two seasons, retiring in 1970.
In 13 major league seasons, he batted .255 with 256 home runs and 796 RBIs. Allison finished in the top ten in home runs among American Leaguers eight times during his career, and teamed with Killebrew in 1962 to become the first pair of sluggers to hit grand slam home runs in the same inning.
Allison was a member of the American League All-Star team three times.
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