Maury Allen, who passed away on Sunday, was a great story-teller.
I recently attended a screening of the new documentary, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, at the Yogi Berra Museum in Little Falls, NJ, which was just a couple of miles from where Maury lived. I can’t recall just now, but I believe he was the first “talking head” in the film and when he came on screen, the standing-room-only audience was vocal in their recognition and appreciation. The only other figures in the movie to merit more reaction were Sandy Koufax, and Adam Greenberg, who was shown being hit in the head with the only pitch thrown to him in his big league debut.
For those who never heard or saw Maury, here’s a video produced in conjunction with his last book, a biography of Dixie Walker. I received the book a couple of months ago but haven’t gotten around to reading it. I picked it up a couple of days ago but put it back down, afraid that Maury’s passing would cloud any objectivity. But the few pages I read just prove that Maury wasn’t afraid to deal with a controversial topic. Walker, a Southerner, was for many years criticized for supposedly leading a petition drive to keep Jackie Robinson off the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maury made no bones that Walker was a favorite of his growing up as a fan of the team, but treats the topic with his usual degree of professionalism, seeking to get to the bottom of the story.
Maury wrote dozens of books, many of which I have in my library. I also have the March 1968 issue of Baseball Digest, in which one of his stories appeared. I showed it to him in one of our visits and he seemed quite amused that someone had held onto it so long.
Other obits for Maury:
- From LoHud.com, serving the Lower Hudson Valley in New York
- From Jonathan Mayo on MLB.com
- From NJ.com
- From MediaBistro
Finally, here’s my own attempt to pay respects via the obituary that’s running in this week’s press edition:
Maury Allen, who spent more than 50 years composing thoughtful behind-the-scenes stories about athletes and issues, died of lymphoma on Oct. 3 at his home in Cedar Grove.
Allen was also a prolific author, producing almost 40 books, primarily on baseball.His most recent title Dixie Walker of the Brooklyn Dodgers: The People’s Choice — was published by the University of Alabama Press earlier this year.
Allen joined the New York Post in 1961 and remained there until 1988. He also wrote for The Journal News, a publication serving Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties. Following his retirement from regular newspaper work, Allen continued to share his opinions on sports, movies, and politics on-line at Thecolumnists.com.
Allen was born in Brooklyn in 1932. He wrote for The Pacific Stars and Stripes while in the Army during the Korean War. Upon his release from the military, Allen worked for small-town newspapers until he got his big break with Sports Illustrated in 1959. While at SI,Allen met his wife, Janet, who was working in the magazine’s photography department; they married in 1962.
A lover of the cinema, Allen appeared in a scene with Walter Matthau at Shea Stadium in the 1968 film The Odd Couple and was portrayed in the 2007 ESPN miniseries, The Bronx is Burning.
Marty Appel, a former public relations director for the New York Yankees, recalled meeting Allen on his first day with the ballclub in 1968.
“He had a great smile and a great friendliness to him,”Appel told NJ Jewish News. “He enjoyed meeting new people who were coming into the field, especially people who knew their stuff. If they knew their subject matter, they were like him — fans — and he was happy to talk with them.”
New York Daily News sports columnist and Montclair resident Filip Bondy wrote in an e-mail, “You’d always be happy when you saw that you were sitting next to Maury at a baseball game.Great conversation, about the game and about everything else. He had a lively, open mind, and was wonderfully opinionated.”
Added Bondy: “What he hated the most, I think, about modern ballplayers like Derek Jeter was their refusal to say anything that even remotely might be considered controversial. He used to complain that Jeter couldn’t be much of a captain, because he certainly wasn’t a spokesman for anybody.
“Maury was a good-hearted, spirited sports writer, forever engaged with the people around
him,” said Bondy.Ira Berkow, the Pulitzer prize-winning author who worked with Allen on the documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, said, “Maury brought a deep passion and intellect to his baseball writing. It matched beautifully with his deep passion and intellect for life. He not only saw the both sides of a story or argument, he saw the soul of it.”
In 2008, NJJN asked Allen and other sports figures what they wanted for Hanukka that year.
Replied Allen, “A Giants-Jets Super Bowl, a peaceful Obama presidency, and a Yankees-Mets World Series.”
In addition to his wife, Allen is survived by his son, Ted of Montclair; his daughter, Jennifer Blazkiewicz of Piscataway; and four grandchildren.