All-Time Indians: Johnny Allen

Name: John Thomas Allen Position: Starting Pitcher      
Tribe Time: 1936-1940       Number: 15        
Accolades: 1938 All-Star, Top 28 MVP (1937-38) DOB: 09/30/1904      
Stats W L W% ERA G GS CG IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP K/9 BAA
Best Season (1937) 15 1 0.938 2.55 24 20 14 173.0 157 49 4 60 87 1.25 4.5 .232
Career 67 34 0.663 3.65 150 121 60 929.2 905 377 36 342 505 1.34 4.9 .245

There is always a guy before the guy and for the Indians and Bob Feller, that guy was Johnny Allen. Allen originally came up with New York and in a case that would be reversed in the future, the Yankees were a farm system for the Indians. Allen came to Cleveland in exchange for Monte Pearson and Steve Sundra and immediately became the Tribe's ace in 1936. 

That season, Allen showed his uncanny ability to win games without amazing stuff or an incredible team behind him. The Indians in 1936 were barely above a .500 team and yet, Allen won twenty and lost just ten of his 36 games. This was a time of transition for Cleveland as they were past the great pitching teams of the 1920's and were reloading for another run at the World Series. Behind Allen in the rotation were Mel Harder, Oral Hildebrand, Lloyd Brown and George Blaeholder with a young starter making his debut named Bob Feller.

In addition to leading the team in wins, Allen also lead the team in ERA with a 3.44. In the following season, he turned it up a notch. Allen dropped the ERA to a career low 2.55 and set a Major League record for winning percent (.938) by winning 15 games to just one loss. This record has since been surpassed by Roy Face, who went 18-1 in 1959, but it remains an Indians record (Cliff Lee is second with a 22-3 record from 2008). For his efforts, he was awarded the Sporting News MLB Player of the Year Award, despite the fact the Indians finished in fourth place. Even with Allen's poor later seasons, he still remains third all time in career winning percent as well.

Feller took over as ace in 1938, breaking a record for most strike outs in a single season and pushing Allen out of that role all the way back to the third most used starter, behind Harder as well. Even though it was Allen's worst season as an Indian, the team was actually better off as the rest of the rotation had been improved. Those three starters combined for 43 wins and the Indians moved into third place in the American League.

Allen was further overshadowed by Feller in the next two seasons, both because Feller was quickly becoming the greatest pitcher in Indians history and because Allen was only a shadow of his former self. Far from his first two seasons when he went 35-11, he finished his Indians career going 18-15. With Feller, Al Smith, Jim Bagby, Jr. and Al Milnar set to go in 1941, Allen was no longer needed in Cleveland and he was sold to the St. Louis Browns for $20,000. He played just a partial season with the Browns before being released and never really regained his prime, although he did have a decent season in 1942 with the Dodgers. After a short 1944 season and an attempted comeback with Philadelphia in 1945, Allen retired from baseball for good. He died less than ten years later in Florida in 1954.

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona.

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