May 6, 2013
Not everyone has the good fortune of turning their hobby into a career, but Lee Allen did. Leland Gaither Allen was born in Cincinnati in 1915 and was a regular at old Redland Field as a boy, in part because his father was a lawyer and three term Congressman. The young Allen would head to the ballpark right after school and kept meticulous scorecards of each game. Eventually he talked his way into the press box because he provided the newspaper scribes with stats, trends and records, including exact pitch counts. After graduating from Kenyon College and a semester at Columbia Journalism University, Allen was hired in 1936 by the Reds as an assistant to team publicity director Gabe Paul. Allen was with the team when they won the pennant in 1939 and World Series in 1940. After a year in the military in 1941, Allen was discharged for medical reasons and rejoined the team in 1942…the same year Waite Hoyt came to Cincinnati. Allen and Hoyt became fast friends and Allen would fill in as radio announcer whenever Hoyt took a day off. When Waite was recovering from alcoholism in 1945, Allen announced Reds' games for several consecutive months. In 1948, Allen wrote the authoritative history of the Cincinnati Reds dating back to the first professional team in 1869. Allen was considered the master of Reds trivia and he even hosted a show in WKRC in the 1940s where he challenged listeners to stump him on some fact or player. In one well publicized event, Allen battled Phillies manager Eddie Sawyer in a six hour trivia challenge over Philadelphia radio station KYW in 1952. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown called Allen in 1959 and hired him to became “Chief Historian.” It was a dream job…Allen would spend his days knee deep in books, photos and documents in the Hall's library, answering any questions submitted by patrons and researchers. It was Allen who was credited with going back through baseball records and reclassifying categories, such as separating the statistics of left, right and center fielders (who previously were lumped into one category.) he was a “kid in a candy store.” Allen's amazing ride in baseball ended suddenly when he suffered a fatal heart attack while returning to Cooperstown from Cincinnati's professional baseball centennial celebration party in 1969.
Find more biographies from this series: Cincinnati Reds Broadcasters