|Michael Kay, Mel Allen|
Allen was truly the only "Voice of the Yankees." First on radio and then on television in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, Allen got the assignment to call the big events, whether it be the World Series - which the Yankees were almost always in each season - the All-Star Game, the Rose Bowl or the Kentucky Derby for Fox's Movietone reels in theaters.
Allen was everywhere. How many people know, for example, that he and Ronald Reagan teamed up to co-host the Rose Bowl Parade television coverage in 1960? Or that in the early 60s, that Mel called New York Giants football games on radio?
But the New York Yankees were his first and some say only love. And when the Yankees fired him in 1964 at the still relatively young age of 50 - for reasons the ball club never disclosed - it broke his heart. Some say he was never the same person after that.
This week, when Hartford Courant sportswriter Dom Amore, who once covered the Yankees on a daily basis for the paper, retweeted Kay's photo of Allen, it reminded me of the time Mel came to Torrington to speak to a packed house at the Knights of Columbus. This was back in the day, when sports banquets were popular and affordable. Hot Stove banquets were especially enjoyable, as people gathered on a cold night to hear a guest speaker talk baseball. And on this cold night in February 1968, Allen - nearly four years removed from his Yankee gig - did not disappoint.
Allen regaled the audience for 30 minutes with stories about baseball and his career. I was at the event that night. Fortunately, a future broadcast colleague - already getting a foothold in the business - had the foresight to have a reel-to-reel tape recorder rolling that night. Years later, when I started working with Paul Pagano, I asked him if he still had the tape. He not only had it, but gave me a cassette copy. Of course, Mel's talk has gone digital. I even donated a copy to the baseball Hall of Fame.
His talk is what you will hear on the podcast, after I set the scene by putting that night and his career into context. In this cold month of November, as the snow flies, hopefully a little baseball talk from a bygone era, from a Hall of Fame broadcaster, will help stoke the hot stove.