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October 8, 2011

My "How About That" moment with Hall of Fame broadcaster Mel Allen

By FRANK BARNING

The late Mel Allen (1913-96) was known as "The Voice of the Yankees". Although an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan, I would tune into Yankees games on radio or television whenever my beloved bums were not playing.

One of the advantages of growing up in the New York metropolitan area when I was a young baseball fan back in the 1950s was that we had three teams. The Dodgers and Giants departed for the west coast after the 1957 season.

Mel Allen was great story teller and I learned so much about baseball, and especially about Yankees players from the 1930s and 1940s, listening to him. Among his many catchphrases were "Hello there, everybody!" to start a game, "How about that?" or "Going, going, gone!" on home runs and "Three and two. What'll he do?"

He was a familiar voice nationally because of the numerous Bronx Bombers' World Series games he telecast. After a long career with the Yankees, he was fired. Eventually, he surfaced nationally as the first host of "This Week in Baseball".

The photo above was taken in around 1981 at a baseball card show in New York. That's Mel on the left and me on the right. But it was not the first time that I had been in contact with the famous "The Voice of the Yankees".

When I was the sports information director at Hofstra University in the late 1960s, I attended the weekly college baseball writers luncheons held during the spring in Manhattan. Prior to the start of one of the gatherings, I stepped into the men's room at the legendary Mamma Leone's restaurant.

As I was experiencing the pause that refreshes at a urinal, I looked to my right and standing in the next stall was Mel Allen. It took all the will power I could muster to not utter one of his famous catchphrases, "How about that?"

The Yankees dedicated a plaque in his memory for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium in 1998. The plaque calls him "A Yankee institution, a national treasure" and includes his much-spoken line, "How about that?"

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I recognize Mel....but who is that young guy with the dark hair and mustache?

bh3443 said...

What a great article and photo! Over coffee this morning we had a Frank Barning fan club discussion! Keep these great articles coming! I'm proud to be your friend. Regards to you and your family from Bill Hedin & Family