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Steve Albert calls retirement from play-by-play career ‘bittersweet’

Suns broadcaster Steve Albert and then-Suns GM Lance Blanks at training camp in San Diego. (Photo: Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: Steve Albert, former Suns broadcaster

With 45 years of experience, Steve Albert’s call as the Phoenix Suns’ television play-by-play man came easily.

The call to walk away from his profession didn’t.

Albert announced his retirement from broadcasting on Tuesday. A guest on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Bickley and Marotta, he said the decision was “bittersweet.”

“I’ve been wrestling with this for a while. It was not an easy decision,” Albert said. “I’ve been so fortunate to call some major events in a number of sports. I never thought I’d retire before (Suns radio broadcaster and Ring of Honor member) Al McCoy. If nothing else, just getting to know Al, to call him a friend, made this all worthwhile.”

Albert spent the last five seasons on the call for FOX Sports Arizona. None of the seasons saw the Suns reach the playoffs, but the self-deprecating play-by-play broadcaster said he’d prepared for that professionally in previous jobs calling games for the Mets and Nets.

A native of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, Albert grew up in a blue-collar family with brothers Marv Albert and Al Albert, who also became sports broadcasters. His dad worked a grocery store and his mother gave the boys their dry sense of humor, he said.

“I always kind of lived by the credo of don’t take yourself seriously but take your work seriously,” Steve Albert said. “It was a very low-key, unassuming way to be brought up.”

Albert said he’d decided he wanted to pursue a play-by-play career from the age of 7.

He recalled his biggest gaffe — Albert forgot the name of an opponent while calling a home game for the World Hockey Association’s Cleveland Crusaders — and his most memorable event covered, the boxing match between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield that became known as “The Bite Fight.”

After Tyson bit part of Holyfield’s ear off in what became one of the most infamous boxing matches ever, Albert remembers drawing attention from viewers at the airport on his way home.

He also recollected a press conference for then-President Bill Clinton starting with a question about the fight. Clinton said he was “horrified” by the result.

“And I thought he was talking about the broadcast,” Albert quipped.

As the Suns’ play-by-play man, Albert said the travel requirements were among the reasons he’s decided to step away from his dream career. He isn’t taking it for granted.

“It’s really all we ever wanted to do,” Albert said of his brothers and him. “I wanted to be a play-by-play guy since I started walking. I was about 7 when I knew what I wanted to do and I guess there was no looking back. What an honor to be in this profession my entire adult life.”

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