This is my Amazon review of Stephen Borelli's definitive biography of Yankees broadcaster Mel Allen. Get the book here.
Mel Allen was not only the voice of the Yankees: he was the voice of all baseball for three decades, as important a sports icon in his time as John Madden is to younger generations, and as respected a commentator as Marv Albert or Vin Scully. When you thought of baseball (and, as Stephen Borelli assiduously notes, any big-time sporting events), you could hear the soothing calm of Mel's clear, crisp Southern drawl as he effortlessly described at-bat after at-bat. Knowledgeable, charming and precise, Allen was simultaneously the most spontaneous and the most polished of all broadcasters. Nowadays we think little of these qualities in our high-definition, internet world, but at the time, most citizens were radio-bound, and they trusted and loved one man before all his peers, Melvin Allen.
Borelli's research is first-rate and wonderful entertainment, and will appeal both to diehard sports fans and those who love tantalizing narratives. I sat down one July evening after having bought my copy and read the whole thing, cover-to-cover, in four hours (missing dinner, I noticed only later). My wife, who is not overly interested in sports, also read it and greatly enjoyed it. It is a treasure trove of anecdotes, facts, figures, and, most of all, the story of the fantastic voyage of an impoverished Jewish boy from rural Alabama who fought prejudice and ignorance to become the most respected and highly paid sports broadcaster in the world. I loved Mel Allen before I read the book, and already considered him the epitome of announcers and someone whose kind we will never see again. After reading this superb account of his life, his times, and the lasting impact he made on both fans and players, I am even more settled in my opinion. As you will discover, there are hundreds of reasons why, in the words of George Steinbrenner himself, "no man in the history of the Yankees has ever meant more to the Yankees than Mel Allen."