October 10, 2011

Memories of the great Mel Allen for whom Mel Solomon was named

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Frank, great post (October 8) about Mel Allen. I have some interesting memories of "The Voice of the Yankees".

First of all in a way I am named after Mel Allen. I was actually named after my grandfather Moses Solomon, but in the Jewish-American tradition I needed an anglicized name. When I was born my father did not like the name Michael so he choose Melvin after Mel Allen. You would be shocked to know the number of Jewish men between the ages of 60 and 75 with the name "Mel." At my synagogue we had about 40 male members and four were named "Melvin."

I met Mel Allen twice. Once when I was about 10 or eleven and was going to a Yankees game with my camp. We got there early and I saw him walking into Yankee Stadium. He was wearing one of those mesh summer hats. I was delighted to shake his hand.

The second time was in the early 1980s when I attended the Baseball Writers Dinner in New York City. Sports writer Bill Madden, who lived in the town next to me and was an avid baseball card collector at that time, managed to get me tickets. I was sitting at a table with Larry Doby.

Mel Allen came in and was introduced. The writers at our table said that Mel always got one of the biggest hands when he was introduced. He was at the table next to me and I went over and told him that I was named after him. He got a big kick out of that and gave me a big hug. He told all of the people at the surrounding tables that I was named after him. I have a picture of the two of us in tuxedos.

I had actually planned to attend his funeral in Connecticut but on the same day there was a funeral for a friend's wife who died at a very young age and I rightfully felt that my presence there would be more significant.

My favorite Mel Allen story involves Dave Righetti's no-hitter on July 4, 1983. At that time a good number of the Yankees games were on MSG which was a relatively new cable network. They actually brought Mel back to do the games. Richard Nixon was at the game sitting in George Steinbrenner's box. After the final out they showed Nixon standing and clapping. Mel said "There is former Vice President Richard Nixon." Clearly the 1950s were the best years of Mel's life and I guess that he just put that sad period from 1968 to 1974 out of his mind.
There are two recent biographies of Mel and I have them both. He was one of the greatest announcers of all time. He did the Rose Bowl every year and a lot of college football. I believe that the MLB Network prime-nine series has him ranked as the second best baseball announcer after Vin Scully. Even being a lifelong Yankees fan with a close attachment to Mel, I cannot argue with that.

As you know, I like to make lists of players in various categories. Here is a list of my favorite baseball Mels:

1. Mel Ott
2. Mel Queen
3. Melvin Mora
4. Mel Harder
5. Mel Stottlemyre

Announcer -- Mel Allen
Manager -- Bob Melvin

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