Mel Allen (February 14, 1913 - June 16, 1996) was an American sportscaster. During the peak of his career in the 1940s and '50s, Allen was arguably the most prominent member of his profession, his voice familiar to millions. In his later years, he gained a second professional life as the first host of This Week in Baseball.
To this day - years after his death - he is still identified as the Voice of the Yankees, for his long tenure as the New York Yankees' principal play-by-play announcer.
Allen was born Melvin Allen Israel in Birmingham, Alabama. He was educated as a lawyer, but a boyhood love for baseball led him to become first a sports columnist and then a radio announcer. He attended the University of Alabama where he was a member of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity as an undergraduate. He went on to earn a law degree from the University as well. His first broadcast was not a baseball game but a football game, between Tulane University and the University of Alabama.
In 1937, Allen was invited to join the CBS Radio Network as a staff announcer, and often did non-sports announcing such as big band remotes or game show announcements. Among the game shows, he did Truth or Consequences.
In 1939, Allen started doing play-by-play for both the New York Yankees and the then-New York Giants. Ultimately he became the main broadcaster for Yankees' games, though he also did Giant games until 1943. He was known for his signature catchphrases following Yankee home runs: "Going, going, gone!" and, "How about that?"
In 1943 (during World War II), he entered the United States Army, and while in the service changed his name legally to Mel Allen; he broadcast on The Army Hour and Armed Forces Radio Service programs.
After returning to civilian life, Allen resumed baseball announcing, doing 24 All-Star Game broadcasts for Major League Baseball as well as Yankee games (including World Series broadcasts when the Yankees were in it, which was most of the years, a total of 20 World Series).
He also did a number of college football bowl games: 14 Rose Bowls, 2 Orange Bowls, and 2 Sugar Bowls. For many years Allen also provided voiceover narration for Fox Movietone newsreels.
Allen also served as play-by-play announcer of New York Football Giants games on WCBS Radio in 1960 - with some of the games also being carried by the CBS Radio Network. Allen was behind the WCBS mike when Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik levelled Giants running back Frank Gifford during a clash at Yankee Stadium.
Allen continued to broadcast Yankee games until 1964, when he was fired for reasons that the ballclub has not explained to this day. In 1965 and 1968 he worked Milwaukee Braves and Cleveland Indians games, respectively. Eventually, the Yankees allowed him to again perform at special Yankee Stadium ceremonies, including Old Timers' Day.
Allen was welcomed back to the Yankees' on-air family in 1976 and joined the crew of SportsChannel (now Fox Sports Net New York) to announce Yankees cable telecasts along with the regular crew of Phil Rizzuto, Bill White, Frank Messer, and occasionally Fran Healy.
Allen remained with the Yankees' cable crew into the late 1980s. Among the memorable moments he called in that stretch were Yankee outfielder Reggie Jackson's 400th home run in 1980, and Yankee pitcher Dave Righetti's no-hitter on July 4, 1983.
In his later years, Allen was exposed to a new audience as the host of the syndicated highlights show This Week in Baseball, which he hosted from its inception in 1977 until his death. Between his Major League Baseball assignments and his announcing duties for the Yankees, Allen again became the embodiment of the national pastime's spirit. The only quibble some critics (including the New York Post's Leonard Shechter) had about Allen would be with his loquaciousness, both on the air and in one-on-ond conversations.
Mel Allen reached yet another generation of fans in 1994 when he recorded the play-by-play for two computer baseball games, Tony La Russa Baseball and Old Time Baseball, which were published by Stormfront Studios. The games included his signature "How about that?!" home run call, which he had first used almost fifty years earlier.
Although he completed the work only about a year before his death, producer Don Daglow said in a 1995 interview with Computer Gaming World that "Allen was a dream to work with. If something sounded the least bit off he caught it himself and self-corrected before you even had a chance to ask for another take. Sometimes he'd hear a problem live that we would only have noticed later. When he was reading the long list of numbers that would be spliced into sentences to announce batting averages and so on he stopped suddenly and said 'That's not good.' Then he started again and finished the list. When we checked the tape we heard that he had just started to get a sing-song rhythm from repeating too many numbers in a row, and he'd noticed before anyone else had."
In 1978 Allen was one of the first two winners of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award. (The other was his old MLB and CBS Radio colleague Red Barber, who for some time served alongside Allen as the Yankees' announcer after making his name with the Brooklyn Dodgers.) Allen was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.
Upon his death at age 83, Allen was buried at Temple Beth El Cemetery in Stamford, Connecticut. On July 25, 1998, the Yankees dedicated a plaque in his memory for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque calls him "A Yankee institution, a national treasure" and includes his signature line, "How about that?"