It is Picture Day at Alabama and Joe Namath is the center of attention. Already, the 5,000 media booklets printed by the athletic department are almost sold out, and writers from around the South are picking the Tide, LSU and Auburn to battle defending champion Ole Miss for the championship. A picture of Paul Bryant and Namath conversing on the bench is the featured photo on this year's media book cover.
“Hello everybody this is Mel Allen!” This opening line became the signature of one of sports broadcastings greatest voices.
Born Melvin Allen Israel in Birmingham, Alabama to Julius and Anna by age five he could read the newspaper. Julius would give his son his first taste of baseball taking him to Birmingham Barons games.At 15 years of age he was on the campus of the University of Alabama where he worked as a reporter for the student newspaper the Crimson –White.He worked as the manager of the baseball team and was the PA announcer for baseball, basketball and football game. Alabama football coach Frank Thomas recommended Allen to WAPI to be an announcer and started his radio career. After graduating law school he took what was to be a week vacation in New York City. While there, he auditioned and got a job with CBS. His duties included introducing big band concerts and working on game shows like Truth or Consequences. He began broadcasting both the New York Yankees and New York Giants baseball games in 1939. He joined the US Army in 1943 and officially changed his name to Mel Allen.
Returning to the Yankees after the war he built a reputation as the “Voice of the Yankees”. During that time he was known for his catch phrases.”Going… going… gone!” became his trademark call of a homerun. “How about that?” was another line that became expected by the audience in each broadcast.He was the lead announcer of 24 All Star games and 22 World Series.In addition,’ he went back to his college roots by calling 14 Rose Bowls, five Orange Bowls and two Sugar Bowl games.Allen was the voice of Fox Movietone newsreels.He called Yankee games from 1939-1964 and again from 1976 to 1985. He also worked for baseball’s Milwaukee Braves and Cleveland Indians. Allen had positions as announcer the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Washington Redskins.
Mel Allen’s career and popularity reached new generations through his work on the TV series, This Week in Baseball. Allen appeared in movies as himself and made numerous TV appearances. He voice was featured on two computer baseball games.
Mel Allen and another baseball broadcaster with southern roots, Red Barber, were the first recipients of the Ford C. Frick Award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. Among his list of hall of honors are: the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the American Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Radio Hall of Fame.
Mel Allen has a plaque alongside Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and the other honorees in Monument Park at Yankees Stadium. He was laid to rest in Stamford, Connecticut after his death June 16, 1996.