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Allen, Mel (14 February 1913–16 June 1996), sportscaster, was born Melvin Allen Israel in Birmingham, Alabama, the eldest child of Julius Israel and Anna Leib Israel. His parents were Russian immigrants who made their home in the small town of Johns, outside Birmingham. Julius Israel ran a general store in Johns and later sold women's apparel to support his family, which included Melvin's younger brother and sister. The elder Israel moved his family to various small towns in Alabama and to Greensboro, North Carolina, while he pursued his selling career; by Melvin's early teens the family had settled in Birmingham....

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Barber, Red (17 February 1908–22 October 1992), sports broadcaster, was born Walter Lanier Barber in Columbus, Mississippi, the son of William Lanier Barber, a storytelling locomotive engineer, and Selena Martin, a teacher and grammarian whose family ran the local newspaper. When Red was ten years old, the Barbers moved to Sanford, Florida, after a boll weevil invasion destroyed the Mississippi cotton crop and hence the state’s economy. In Sanford, a truck-farming area north of Orlando, Barber played football and baseball, ran track, and graduated in 1926 at the top of his high school class. The namesake and distant relative of the poet ...

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Blesh, Rudi (21 January 1899–25 August 1985), writer, record producer, and broadcaster, was born Rudolph Pickett Blesh in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, the son of Abraham Lincoln Blesh, a doctor, and Theodora Bell Pickett, a piano teacher. In 1910 a family visit to Vienna stimulated Blesh’s interest in the arts, and consequently, he learned to play the piano, the violin, and the cello. Although his musical activities were restricted to the classical repertory at home, Blesh was impressed by the ragtime pianists who performed in Guthrie....

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Carter, Boake (28 September 1898–16 November 1944), broadcast journalist, was born Harold Thomas Henry Carter in Baku, then part of Russia (now the capital of Azerbaijan), the son of Thomas Carter, an oilman and British consul in that city, and Edith Harwood-Yarred Carter. He was educated at boarding schools in England and then spent a brief interval at Cambridge University, where he wrote for a student newspaper. Carter was impatient to enter the oil business with his father, and while making preparations to do so he worked as a stringer for the ...

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Cosell, Howard (25 March 1920–23 April 1995), radio and television sportscaster, was born Howard William Cohen in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants Isidore (or Isadore) Cohen and Nellie (maiden name unknown). Cosell’s father, an accountant at a credit clothier, moved his family to Brooklyn, New York, where Howard attended public schools. He graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School with an outstanding academic record in 1938. Cosell, who ran track and played varsity basketball, served as the sports editor of the high school newspaper. After graduating from high school, he wanted to become a newspaper reporter, but his parents persuaded him to pursue a law career instead....

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Dean, Dizzy (16 January 1910–17 July 1974), baseball player, coach, and broadcaster, was born Jay Hanna Dean in Lucas, Arkansas, the son of Albert Dean and Alma Nelson, both migrant workers. “Dizzy,” a nickname he acquired from his zany antics, had a younger brother, Paul, who also pitched in the major leagues. There has been some uncertainty about Dean’s birthdate, birthplace, and baptismal name. According to Dean, the biographical confusion might stem from the fact that he liked to give every reporter a scoop. Dean said his other name, Jerome Herman, was adopted when he was seven years old. A playmate by that name died, and to console the boy’s father, Dean said that he would take the youth’s name as his own....

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Gowdy, Curt (31 July 1919–20 February 2006), sportscaster, was born in Green River, Wyoming, to Edward Curtis Gowdy, a devoted fly fisherman and outdoorsman and dispatcher for the Union Pacific Railroad, and Ruth Smith. Curt grew up in Cheyenne.

Gowdy loved to fly-fish for trout with his father and eagerly listened to infant radio, where the announcer ...

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Terkel, Studs (16 May 1912–31 Oct. 2008), oral historian, radio broadcaster, and political activist, was born Louis Terkel in the Bronx, New York. He was the third son of Samuel Terkel, a tailor, and Anna (Annie) Finkel, a seamstress, who had immigrated from Russia in ...

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van Loon, Hendrik Willem (14 January 1882–11 March 1944), popular historian and writer, was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the son of Hendrik Willem van Loon, a jeweler, and Elisabeth Johanna Hanken. In 1890 his father moved the family to The Hague and van Loon came under the informal guardianship of his maternal uncle, Jan Hanken, a surgeon, art connoisseur, and amateur musician. Unlike his father, van Loon’s uncle encouraged the boy’s intellectual pursuits, particularly painting, music, and history. When his uncle left for the United States in 1902, van Loon followed him and enrolled at Cornell University. He graduated with a B.A. in 1905....