They called him “The Voice of the Yankees.” His style was unique, entertaining and perfect for the pace of baseball. Those who heard him will never forget him. His name was Mel Allen.
Actually, his name was Mel Israel. But in 1937 CBS insisted that he change his name. So he chose his father’s middle name-Allen- and the legend began.
His colorful descriptions were numerous. Yankees fans always looked forward to hearing Allen as he started each of his broadcasts with his trademark “Hello there, everybody!” When the Yankees hit a home run, it was always “Go-ing, Go-ing Gone!” And of course, whenever there was a great play, he spouted his most memorable, “How a-bout that!”
He carried that one over to his duties on “This Week in Baseball.” That’s when fans of all teams most appreciated his talent and enthusiasm.
From 1946 to 1963, Allen broadcast 18 World Series in a row. In all, he was the voice of the Fall Classic 22 times.
One of the highlights of his career came near the beginning of his time with the Yankees. In 1940, his first full season as their play-by play man, he was honored by Lou Gehrig, who was battling ALS. Gehrig told Allen, “Mel, I never got a chance to listen to your games before because I was playing every day. But I want you to know they’re the only thing that keeps me going.”
During his career, Allen teamed with broadcast partners who were also at the top of the profession. These included Red Barber, his Yankees’ partner, and Vin Scully, the great Dodgers announcer. When he joined the Army for World War II, he became a popular voice on the Armed Forces Radio.
The first phase of Allen’s career with the Yankees ended in 1964. But they did bring him back in 1976 as a pre and post game host, when he worked with current Yankees announcer John Sterling.
In 1985, he was selected for the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. He entered with broadcasting legends Curt Gowdy and Jack Brickhouse, the long-time Chicago Cubs announcer.
A plaque hangs to honor Allen in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque refers to him as “A Yankee institution, a national treasure!”
Now “How a-bout that!”