For the first time, fans got a heavy dose of baseball highlights, especially from out-of-town games. In these pre-SportsCenter days, fans saw few highlights beyond their local TV sports reports until This Week in Baseball.– How About That! The Life of Mel Allen by Stephen Borelli
How do baseball fans mark time?
Through the players, the teams, the seasons, the eras. And sometimes we make distinctions through the way the game is brought to us. As an East Coast Giants fan in the 70s, I remember how great it was when one of the networks began airing This Week In Baseball. We would play our sandlot games on Saturday morning, scarf down some lunch, then turn on the tube and wait for Mel Allen to come on and takes us through our weekly fill of highlights and stories.
Stephen Borelli has written an excellent biography of Allen, whose illustrious career included broadcasting and re-creating Giants games in the early 40s (Allen covered the first game under the lights at the Polo Grounds).
The author annoyed me early on, writing, “He became one of the first two voices enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame…” I’m thinking, here we go again. Yet another writer who can’t make or doesn’t know the distinction between the Hall of Fame and the "Scribes and Mikemen" exhibit.
But that worry soon melted away. Borelli paints an honest portrait of Allen, letting you know his good qualities as well as his not so good.
I thought I might just fast forward to the part where Allen became a Giants announcer in 1940. But Borelli does a great job of telling the American tale, the immigrant Israel family struggling for acceptance. I was pleased to learn that they spent time in my hometown of Greensboro, N.C. As a boy in love with the game, Allen spent his Saturday afternoons at a cigar store down the street from his fathers store in the Gate City. As the scores came in from the telegraph reports, Allen posted them on a blackboard. He also served as batboy for the Greensboro Patriots (Piedmont League). Borelli didn’t say what year this was but I believe it was 1926, the year the Patriots won the pennant and playoff.
I do have to admit that I skimmed over Allen’s Yankees years in order to get to the TWIB chapter. This is my favorite part of the book. For the first time, I learned the behind-the-scenes details of the making of the show as well as the names of the melodies. In light of today’s technologies the ground-breaking story of how they taped and aired the highlights is fascinating.
Before the days of multiple media choices, a lot of fans depended on Allen (he passed away in 1996). He had a distinguished career that included broadcasting football, boxing, a long tenure with the Yankees and his work at This Week In Baseball. Borelli has done a fine job telling his story.