Remembering Hezekiah Allen

Just over a year ago, a bunch of talented, gutsy youngsters thrilled their home town of Westport — and the world — as they battled to within 1 win of the Little League national championship.

MLB logoMany of those boys are now at Staples. They’re 9th graders, ready to try out for Wrecker baseball. Pro careers — an elusive dream even for Little League stars — are waaaaay in the future, in the improbable case they happen at all.

In fact, in the entire history of Westport, we’ve had exactly one major league baseball player.

And his entire career in the Bigs consisted of exactly one game.

In 1884.

Exceptionally alert “06880” reader Glenn Payne found him.

Hezekiah Allen — whose name sounds more like a long-ago preacher than a baseball player* — was born and died in Westport. Glenn is a baseball fan, and — reading a baseball reference book — he wondered how many Westporters are among the 18,408 men to have played played major league ball in the past 140 years.

Step up to the plate, Hezekiah!

The Philadelphia Quakers  in 1884. Hezekiah Allen is probably not in this photo.

The Philadelphia Quakers in 1884. Hezekiah Allen is probably not in this photo.

Born in 1863, his 1 game came in 1884. The 21-year-old was a catcher for the Philadelphia Quakers — now known as the Phillies.

He had 2 hits in 3 at-bats that May day, in a 9-0 loss to the Buffalo Bisons. He was part of a double play, and had no errors. So Hezekiah’s lifetime stats are a batting average of .667, and a fielding percentage of 1.000.

“It’s unclear why he never played again,” Glenn says.

The 1910 census lists him as a “watchman” at a butter factory. Six years later — age 53 — he was dead.

You can find Hezekiah Allen today in (besides a reference book) Willowbrook Cemetery.

“His plot is well tended,” says Glenn, who hunted it down. “Unfortunately, it’s not in the shape of a base!”

Hezekiah Allen

* I’m thinking of you, Pumpsie Green.

13 responses to “Remembering Hezekiah Allen

  1. Mike Calise should have been a major leaguer.

  2. Fascinating. Did anyone who grew up in Westport ever play in the NFL or the NBA? I know a number of Staples grads have gone on to play pro soccer here in the U.S. (including Paul Hunter, ’73, who, in his rookie season, had the good fortune of playing alongside soccer legends Pele and Franz Beckenbauer).

    • Skip Lane (former Staples football head coach Paul Lane’s son) played in the NFL in 1984 (1 game with Kansas City, 3 with the Jets), and in 1987 (3 games with Washington). http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/L/LaneSk20.htm

      • And I see that he played in the SEC too. Very cool.

        • Fred, in the early 80s I had a lengthy conversation with longtime Ole Miss AD Warner Alford who told me that when Skip was playing there as a DB all four starting Ole Miss DBs were from Fairfield County. Pretty unusual for an SEC team.

    • Fred, Mike Calise was probably the best basebal player Westport has ever produced. Had it not been for injuries sufered while playing for the Cardinals’ AAA team he was certain to have advanced to MLB. A Staples pitcher whose name escapes me was signed by the Red Sox in the late 50s but arm miseries ruined his career while still in the minors. Although Skip Lane was the only former Wrecker to have played in the NFL, several have been drafted and gone to training camp with NFL teams. Linemen Win Headley and Mark Skinner, both ’67, were drafted by the Packers and Houston Oilers respectively. Win had been a three-year consensus All America at DE for Wake Forest but was moved to OG by the Packers. He was the last cut in training camp and then blew out his knee playing for Toronto of the CFL. Mark, an all conference OG at U of Richmond, went to training camp with the Oilers. Later, Sean Mulcahy and Dave Kashetta from classes in the late 90s/early 2000s and who starred at UConn and BC, respectively, went to camp with the Redskins. I think that only one Wrecker has ever been drafted by an NBA team: Mike Wachob ’64, who starred on some great Oklahoma City U teams when Abe Lemons was the OCU coach and the school was a perennial DI power, was drafted by the Celtics in ’69 after averaging more than 20 ppg in college.

  3. WILLIAM C RYAN

    Dan, not sure of the connection (must be some insider thing that I missed) but the last line with the asterisk peaked by interest.

    Pumpsie Green was one of my favorite players as a kid. Growing up north of Albany I never got to see any major league games, but in 1956 I went to my first minor league game in Albany where the Albany Senators (Red Sox farm team) played and Pumpsie Green was perhaps their best player and I always thought the first player I ever saw play make the majors. Of course, that distinction pales in comparison to his distinction of being the first Black player to play for the Red Sox, the last team to integrate.

    He had a very modest career which unfortunately was probably most known for the time he and Gene Conley got off the team bus after a game at Yankee Stadium when it was caught in a traffic jam near Harlem and were AWOL for a day or two. Never could understand how a 6’8″ white guy (Conley) could not be found in Harlem!

    But, I have read that Pumpsie ended up having a pretty productive life after baseball and was a good family man, which is what counts in the long run.

    Bill

    • Yes, it was a 3-day “bender” that Pumpsie Green and Gene Conley took in 1962. Yes, they did leave the bus in the Bronx, but they ended up at Idlewild Airport in Queens, where Conley bought a ticket for – and tried to board a plane to – Israel. He called my dad when they wouldn’t let him on board without a passport. [Back then, even 2-sports stars like Conley had “real” off-season jobs. Conley and my dad worked for Technical Tape (Tuck Tape)].

      • Thanks Jeff….I never knew the story of the end of the “bender” but recalled that Pumpsie resurfaced before Conley did. Interesting that your dad worked with Conley during the off season. Yes, players salaries were quite different back then. I recall perhaps the first great relief pitcher in baseball, Elroy Face of the Pirates, worked in the off season in another small town not far from my home town as a house painter….claimed the painting helped keep his forearms strong for pitching, beside bringing in some income.

  4. Any connection to the Allen family of Westport (multi-generations)?

  5. I believe it was a button factory, not a butter factory, and his wife Rebecca, who was born in Sweden, and daughter Alma Christina (I think – the names seem to be reversed in the 1900 and 1910 censuses) worked there as “operators” – maybe of button-making machines? I wonder where that factory was? Anyone with the interest and fortitude to delve into the vast Allen family in Fairfield County can find a fairly complete family tree compiled by Theodore Sastrom in the archives at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. This Hezekiah is in there, a son of Chauncey Allen, who is listed in various censuses as a boatman, a captain and a bridgetender, and Delia Allen (she was some kind of cousin – that happened often in the Allen family! I know because my mother was an Allen.) He was actually the second child of Chauncey and Delia named Hezekiah. The first one died in 1862 at the age of 7. Unfortunately there’s nothing about Hezekiah being a baseball player. Alma married Frank Dennert and lived until 1959.I don’t know if they had any children.

  6. Doug, your comment came up as I was posting mine, but yes, as you can see, there is a connection!