If it’s true that every picture tells a story, then I have a few photos that would fill an entire book.  I’ve worked as a sportscaster for more than 25 years.  In that time, I’ve interviewed thousands of athletes and many famous people.  Along the way, I’ve collected a few images…most in my mind, and a few in my camera.  Each picture comes with a memory.  I hope you enjoy these freeze frames of my career in broadcasting.

My “on air” roots date back to the 1970s, when as a teenager, I was famous among my friends for my calls to Pittsburgh radio talk shows (news talk and sports talk).alby-walkie-talkie1 I became a bit of a regular caller to Perry Marshall, John Cigna and Roy Fox of KDKA.  I’d debate the hot topics of the day.  My goal was to rattle the talk show host, and I did it by being confrontational and argumentative, and by making ridiculous statements, which, if I do say so myself, came naturally.  In one late-night call to Perry Marshall, I unleashed what would become my best-known retort, “C’mon Perry!” I don’t think Marshall and the other hosts had any idea that they were debating the issues with a 14-year-old.  The calls were funny, and I used to love having my family and friends hear my voice on the radio.  So that’s how I got the broadcasting bug!raydowney1

My uncle, Ray Downey, was the Steelers Public Address announcer for close to 50 years, and my father served as his spotter for most of that time.  When I was in high school, my brothers and I were often asked to help out as the opposing team spotter, so on occasion, I had the chance to work in the Steelers Press Box.prince_bob4

In 1978, I also worked as a spotter for the Public Address announcer at the Shriners HS Football All-Star game at Mount Lebanon High School.  That was a tremendous thrill for me because that P.A. Announcer was none other than Pirates broadcasting legend Bob Prince, so I got to work for, sit beside, and soak up everything that was “The Gunner.”

alby-disc-jockeyMy first real broadcasting experience was at WKVU, the student-run radio station at Villanova University.  I signed up to work for WKVU within days of my arrival as a freshman at Villanova.  Some very famous people had started at WKVU, including, as legend has it, the Father of NFL Films, John Facenda.  Legendary musicians Jim Croce and Don McLean are also alumni of the Villanova student radio station.  When I joined WKVU in the fall of 1978, it was a small, carrier-current station at 640 on the AM dial.  Our signal wasn’t very strong, and it was extremely difficult to hear our broadcasts with any clarity, even if you happened to be listening in a building right next door.  But inside all the bad jokes from my friends was a valuable lesson that I still pass along to young broadcasting students.  It doesn’t make any difference who can hear you, as long as you can hear yourself.  If you get the opportunity to talk into a microphone, take advantage of it!  alby-courtsideDespite the lack of technical sophistication at WKVU, I gained a tremendous amount of valuable experience as a disc jockey, and more importantly, as a play-by-play announcer and color analyst.  I also learned how to work with people who shared a common goal.  My passion was play-by-play.  At one time or another, I called games for Villanova basketball, football, hockey and baseball.  I even traveled to road games with the basketball and football teams.alby-play-by-play In my senior year, I was picked by Head Coach Rollie Massimino to be the color analyst for the first Villanova Basketball Radio Network, which, in that first year, was comprised of two commercial radio stations, WQIQ in Chester and another small station in Coatesville.

But my greatest contribution to Villanova basketball may have been a series of tapes that I recorded for potential recruits.  Here’s how it worked.  Coach Massimino would have one of his assistant coaches (Mitch Bonoguro, Paul Cormier or Marty Marbach) “brief” me on the player they were recruiting.  They told me about his family, what type of player he was, what his hobbies were, etc.  I’d then write a script for a fake game.  Naturally, the recruit was a big part of the action, and usually the star of the game.  Next was the play-by-play, which I recorded in an audio booth.  Music, crowd noise and sound effects were added later.  The tapes even had commercials and interviews.  I’d tape an interview with one of the assistant coaches for use during the halftime show, and I’d always used the recorded interview with Massimino for post-game.  I wrote, produced and recorded recruiting tapes for Marc Marotta (1979), Patrick Ewing (1980), Andre Hawkins (1980), Dwayne McClain (1980), Dallas Comegys (1982), and Wyatt Maker (1982).ewing-article-phila-daily-news3 When I recorded the Ewing tape, the unique recruiting technique was chronicled in a Philadelphia Daily News column.  Then came the moment of truth.  I can still remember handing the tape to Ewing in a small conference room on the second floor of the old Villanova Field House.  I think Ewing was impressed, but apparently not enough to choose Villanova.  In fact, we were unsuccessful in getting the recruit with the first three tapes and with four of the six overall.  We lost Marotta to Marquette, Ewing to Georgetown, Comegys to DePaul and Hawkins to Syracuse.  BUT, we were successful in sealing the deal for McClain and Maker, and the McClain tape in particular was the one that really counted.  On that tape, the scenario was presented exactly how it would happen—five years in advance!  The tape that I produced had McClain as the star of a fictional game, which happened to have Villanova beating Georgetown to win the 1985 National Championship at Rupp Arena in Lexington.  It happened that same way on April 1, 1985!  At the time he signed his letter-of-intent for Villanova, McClain told a Boston newspaper that the recruiting tape was a significant factor in his decision.  After the “real” win over Georgetown, the Wildcats were the toast of America, especially in Pennsylvania, where Governor Dick Thornburgh declared “Villanova Day” all over the state.  The Governor hosted the entire Villanova team to a reception at the Governor’s Mansion, and I covered the event for WHP-TV in Harrisburg, where I was working at the time.  While standing with the rest of the members of the media, Coach Mass asked me to tell the story of how I had predicted the win five years earlier!  Years later, I reunited with Massimino when he brought his Cleveland State team to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne.  At a spaghetti dinner the night before the game, he once again acknowledged the magic of the now-famous McClain tape.  I’ve seen Massimino twice on recent occasions.  We talked at the 2009 Final Four in Detroit, and played golf together when Massimino made a stop in Indiana, Pennsylvania.  Massimino has a brilliant basketball mind, and has had a profound influence on me.  Villanova is a special place, and I’m very proud to tell people that I’m a Villanovan!

I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, and within two months of my graduation, I entered a contest on KDKA Radio called Broadcaster for a Night.  It was a gimmick to find a one-day replacement for Pirates announcer Jim Rooker, who was forced to miss a July broadcast to attend his daughter’s wedding.  With the help of a high school classmate, I produced an audition tape that was submitted for consideration.  On the tape, I called play-by-play of a fake game, complete with edited crowd noise.  I guess the experience of having done the Villanova recruiting tapes came in handy!  I was selected as one of three winners for the contest, which earned me a spot in the Pirates broadcast booth with Lanny Frattare.  So on July 23rd of 1982, I took a seat in the KDKA booth and called one inning of play-by-play and two innings of color commentary for the Pirates-Braves game on the world’s first radio station. 

My first paid job in broadcasting was at KREX-TV, a small station in small town on the western slope of Colorado.  There weren’t many major sporting events there so I kept busy with little-known events such as the JUCO World Series and the Coors Classic bicycle race.  But in the summer of 1983, I did get to rub elbows with a true broadcasting icon when I met the one-and-only Howard Cosell, who was in Colorado to cover the Aspen Tennis Classic.

In July of 1984, I jumped at the opportunity to cover my first “significant” event when I drove across the Rockies for the inaugural USFL Championship. The game between the Philadelphia Stars and Michigan Panthers was held at Denver’s Mile High Stadium, and it was there that I landed my first interview with a well-known professional athlete, a young NBA star by the name of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who was on the sidelines to cheer on his home-state Panthers.

My second job in television took me back east, to WHP-TV, the CBS affiliate in Harrisburg, and in  April of 1985, I found myself on the tennis court with a superstar! It was the Tennis Over America tour, and I was paired in a doubles match with the world’s #1 player, John McEnroe.  We played in front of 6500 people at Hersheypark Arena!  McEnroe, of course, was known as much for his sour disposition as he was for his tremendous talent.  I was perfectly fine on the court, but by the look on McEnroe’s face, I don’t think there’s any question that he was bored with my interview.

On a summer night in the late 1980s, I took my turn in the batter’s box against Eddie Feigner,  the King of Softball, and the lead man of the world-famous King and His Courtfeigner king and his courtFeigner was the star of a 1970s-era beer commercial.  He could pitch a softball faster than a major league fastball…from second base, and behind his back!  Feigner had achieved Sports Icon status by traveling to more than 100 countries and entertaining an estimated 20 million fans.  He was said to have played in more than 10,000 games, completing 930 no-hitters, 238 perfect games, 1916 shutouts and 141, 517 strike outs.  Feigner was said to have once struck out Major League Baseball stars Wllie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Harmon Killebrew and Roberto Clemente…in succession!  So when Feigner came to Mount Lebanon High School for a charity game, I received a call asking if I’d take some swings against him.  Feigner wasn’t quite an old man when I faced him, but he was probably in his mid-sixties, and well past his prime.  He was, however, still feisty, and still an imposing figure on the diamond.  My mistake, although completely unintentional, was stealing Feigner’s thunder.   He grooved a fastball across the heart of the plate, and I blasted it over the center fielder’s head for a home run.  As I recall, the members of Feigner’s court were not amused.  The truth is, I didn’t mean to show up Feigner, but in my effort to avoid looking foolish, I took a hard swing at a hard fastball, and I connected!  I fully expected to swing and miss.  I didn’t. I was actually a little embarassed to have homered off Feigner, but it’s something I’ll never forget.  Feigner died in February of 2007 at the age of 82.

AlbyonElephant1Around this same time, I also had my one-and-only ride on an elephant when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey made its annual stop in Pittsburgh (by the way, maybe it’s just me, but P.T. Barnum always gets top billing while James Anthony Bailey always seems to get the short end of the stick).  The circus animals were all “housed” in the AlbyOxElephantstrip district, and on the morning of the first performance, I was part of a massive circus parade up Penn Avenue to what was then the Civic Arena.  It was pouring down rain as I pulled myself up the side of a massive African Elephant.  The look on my face in the second picture is a look of fear.  I guess I couldn’t hide it.  At first, the elephant ride was a bit intimidating, but I got used to it quickly.  The hair on the elephant’s thick skin was so coarse that it felt like wire.  A trainer with a long stick walked beside each elephant.  I’m happy to say it was a peaceful and uneventful ride.

AlbyFrancoHarris2On that same day, Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris was riding the elephant right in front of me.  My mother and father were there to watch, and when the skies opened up, my parents found an umbrella and two old ponchos in the truck of their car.  One of the ponchos even had the Steelers logo on it!  Talk about being prepared!  Franco and I were both very appreciative.  It was a wet and smelly experience, but it was fun.  On one of the circus stops in Pittsburgh in those years, I served as the honorary ringmaster.  I still have my whistle that signaled the start of The Greatest Show On Earth!

The athlete I idolized growing up was Arnold Palmer, so when I met Palmer for the first time, needless to say, it was a tremendous thrill.  I flew to Philadelphia to interview Palmer as part of our preview coverage of the 1989 U.S. Senior Open.  16 years later, to promote the Senior PGA Championship, I was fortunate to get the chance to play with Palmer in a three-hole scramble at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier.

The ’89 Senior Open was my first opportunity to cover a major golf event.  Our entire staff stayed at either  Laurel Valley Golf Club or in the town of Ligonier.  We had wall-to-wall coverage every day, and it was nice not having to make the long trip every morning.  One day (I think it may have been during a practice round), I was walking near the 18th hole when I spotted entertainment icon Bob Hope sitting in a private area above the 18th green with Laurel Valley founder and past club President Howard Love (who’s wearing a pink hat, and seated to the right of, and partially blocked by Hope).  Hope was nice enough to give me an interview, and as I thanked him for his time, an Associated Press photographer took this picture from about 50 yards away.  Hope and Love had been close friends for a very long time.  Apparently, Hope even had a lifetime membership at Laurel Valley.  When the two men said goodbye after their visit, Hope (as the story goes) told Love that he had a feeling it would be the last time they’d see each other.  Hope was correct.  Howard Love died a short time later.

I interviewed another golf legend in 1990.  Jack Nicklaus was in town to get a firsthand look at how construction on his newest golf course was progressing.  I actually walked along with Nicklaus through empty fields and wooded areas as he made changes and revisions to what would become The Club at Nevillewood.  These were the days before GPS, and I offered to help Nicklaus get back to the airport.  He appreciated the help, and I led the way, with Nicklaus in the car behind me, on a short drive to the FBO Aviation Center near the Pittsburgh International Airport, where Jack’s corporate jet was waiting.albybillmazeroski-19901

When the Pirates celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1960 World Series, I had the opportunity to interview another one of my childhood heroes.  I was only a little more than one-month-old when Bill Mazeroski hit his series-clinching home run over the left field wall at Forbes Field.  Meeting Maz for the first time was a memory for awillie-stargell-199114 lifetime.

In 1991, the Pirates celebrated an anniversary of another championship.  This time it was the 20th anniversary of the 1971 World Series, and I enjoyed one of the first of many interviews with Pittsburgh icon and Hall of Famer Willie Stargell.  After the death of Roberto Clemente, Stargell was the glue that kept the Pirates together, a larger-than-life figure who linked the 1971 and 1979 World Series teams.  In person, Stargell was physically imposing, but his soft soul and outgoing personality made for easy conversation.

albyhankaaron1991I interviewed another Major League Baseball Hall of Famer in 1991 when the legendary Hank Aaron came to Pittsburgh to promote his new book, I Had A Hammer. I sat down with Aaron in a back room at the Downtown Hilton.  “Hammerin’ Hank,” baseball’s all-time home run leader at that time, was pleasant, but not personable.  Maybe the long cross-country book tour had taken its toll.

albypeterose1992A year later, baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, was in Pittsburgh for an autograph show at Duquesne University’s A. J. Palumbo Center.  People who have seen this picture often ask me if I interviewed Rose outside a jail cell or at some type of correctional facility.  No, the wire fence you see is just the cage that pulls down in front of the concession area.  Rose was very nice, although he seemed a bit suspicious of the media.  He was barely three years into his lifetime ban from baseball.

Barry Bonds wasn’t known for his outgoing personality, but his talent was undeniable.barry-bonds2 A newspaper report in 1992 said Bonds would consider staying with the Pirates, even if it meant accepting a contract for several million dollars less than what he could earn on the free agent market.  I asked a much-slimmer Bonds if the report was true.  “Several million?  Are you kidding me?”  At first, Bonds had refused the interview.  When I persisted, he started talking, and didn’t stop for close to 15 minutes.  Despite his sometimes-caustic persona, I never had a problem with Bonds.  alby-and-mario-lemieux-june-1-19929

One of the other dominant athletes I’ve enjoyed knowing has been Penguins superstar Mario Lemieux.  I’ve talked with Mario many times over the years, but one of my more memorable moments with him came on June 1st of 1992.  It was in Chicago, and the Penguins had just won their second straight Stanley Cup title.  As I interviewed Mario live on our television postgame show, he gave me a champagne shower that I’ll never forget.

I ran into former Steelers star Lynn Swann while covering the Rose Bowl in January of 1995.  Swann was working as a sideline reporter for ABC.  The trip to Pasadena was a memorable trip for many reasons, but at the top of the list was my now-famous wedding toast, when I crashed a New Year’s Eve wedding with three other members of the Pittsburgh media.  The wedding toast story deserves to be told in a blog all by itself.  Maybe I’ll do that.

albydanielsantiago-19975In March of 1997, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament came to Mellon Arena, and I had to get creative in interviewing one of the stars from the University of New Mexico.  Sometimes, I don’t measure up, but rest assured, I always stand tall!  In this picture, I’m using a chair to record a funny clip with 7 foot 2 Center Daniel Santiago.  The camera shot started tight, with the two of us looking “eye to eye.”  As the camera pulled out to a wide shot, there I was, standing on a chair to gain my “unique” perspective.  Associated Press Photographer Gene Puskar had been assigned to take some shots that day, and he told me later that he knew he had found the perfect picture when he spotted me on the chair.  Puskar’s photo appeared on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Section, and in many newspapers around the country.

1997 was also the year that Mario Lemieuxalby-mario4 retired for the first time.  Lemieux was bothered by a heart problem—the latest on the list of his many health issues, which also included a bad back, an injured hip and a courageous bout with Hodgkins Disease.  Lemieux was very sad the night of his retirement, and I was standing closer to him than anyone…so close that I was forced to hold microphones for three different media outlets.

I met Celtics great and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell at the 1997 Major League Baseball All-Star game at Jacobs Field in Cleveland.  Russell won 11 championship rings with the Celtics, and another one for an NCAA Championship at the University of San Francisco.  He’s the ultimate champion.  Russell declined my request for an interview, but a photographer for The Sporting News snapped this photo.  As you can see, Russell’s hand completely swallowed mine.  I guess you need big hands to wear all those rings!

When I met Muhammad Ali in 1998, he was in Pittsburgh for a Parkinson’s Disease conference, and although he didn’t speak and walked very slowly, Ali still showed off for the crowd.  He even treated us to a magic trick!  It’s difficult to see, but there’s a scarf hidden inside a rubber thumb on Ali’s right hand.  It was an amazing moment with an athlete that truly transcends sports.alby-emmy-19985

I don’t necessarily think awards are the end-all, but nonetheless, I was excited to win a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award in 1998 for Outstanding Individual Achievement/Sports Reporting.  It was a good day all the way around.  Then again, anytime I pull my tuxedo out of the closet to find that it still fits is a good day!  I was glad to finally win an Emmy after having been nominated eight or nine times without winning.  Winning awards might not be the end-all, but it’s sure better than losing awards!

Michael Jordan made several trips to Pittsburgh for the Mario Lemieux Celebrity Golf Invitational at Nevillewood.  This particular year, we were told that hemichael-jordan7 wouldn’t be doing interviews, but I broke the rules and asked Jordan for a comment as he walked out of the scoring tent off the 18th green.  That’s me to Jordan’s left in the sunglasses.  The rest of the media followed my lead.  Moment later, I broke another rule.  My five-year-old son, who had followed Jordan in 100-degree heat for five hours, was upset when MJ hadn’t gotten close enough to sign his jersey.  Because desperate times call for desperate measures, I took my son into the bathroom of the Men’s locker room.  Jordan couldn’t have been nicer.  He stood about five feet taller than my son, and to tell you the truth, the  scene sort of reminded me of the famous Joe Greene Coke commercial, although my son was a lot younger than the actor in that ad.  Jordan joked that he should have had my son arrested for entering the locker room.  He laughed, then agreed to sign the jersey, but only after he washed his hands.  That’s a lesson my son still remembers.

In October of 2003, two network stars came to Pittsburgh when the Steelers hosted the St. Louis Rams at Heinz Field.  It was the Steelers 1000th game, and Terry Bradshaw was my guest on the Fox 53 pre-game show.  albyterrybradshaw20031Bradshaw and the city of Pittsburgh were finally on speaking terms again.  It was one of several trips back to Pittsburgh when Bradshaw repaired the broken relationship with his fans.  On one of those trips back into town, Bradshaw recorded a promo with me, and got a big kick out of the Ox on Fox moniker.  I don’t know Bradshaw very well, but he’s incredibly personable in interviews.  He’s funny, and smarter than anyone knows.  Because of his television work for FOX, Bradshaw is also the best-known of the ’70s Super Bowl Steelers.

2003albyhowielong1Also in town that day was NFL on FOX analyst Howie Long, an old buddy of mine from Villanova.  When I was a freshman, Howie lived only four or five rooms down the hall in my dormitory.  Howie was a big deal at Villanova, but in the dorm, he was just part of the gang.  His wife also went to Villanova with us, but after graduation, when his life got very busy, I rarely ran into him.  I talked briefly with Howie on the field in Dublin, Ireland when the2003albyhowielong22 Steelers played the Bears in the American Bowl, and I was in Canton on the day of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I saw him two other times in Pittsburgh, including the day of the 1000th game, when we actually had about 30 minutes to catch up on the sidelines (and in the pouring down rain).  Howie’s a great person.

I can always say that I worked for the network for that 1000th game.  In those days, FOX would use local sportscasters to work as their on-field reporters, so I was on the sidelines (and soaked to the skin) for the milestone game in Steelers history.  It was an exciting day, although I was incredibly wet because it rained hard.  I don’t think it ever stopped raining that day.

A year later, the Steelers celebrated the 30th anniversary of their first Super Bowlalbyjoegreene20043 season, and I had the chance to talk with the cornerstone of those first four championship teams, Joe Greene.  “Mean Joe” was Chuck Noll’s first draft pick, and arguably, the most dominant player of the 1970s Steelers.  Greene is bigger than life, and in more ways than one.  By the way, Greene didn’t offer to give me his jersey.  Maybe I should have offered him a Coke first!

joe-willie-namath2

NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath was in Pittsburgh in 2004 to promote a drug for Arthritis, and I had the chance to sit down with him in a back room at his hotel.  In this picture, I’m about to give Namath a VHS tape of his highlights from Beaver Falls High School!  He was very surprised, and extremely excited.

In 2005, I interviewed Joe Paterno at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh, and afterward, I told Paterno a story that had happened eleven years earlier.  alby-joe-paterno2In 1994, I was on a New Jersey beach at 7:00am setting up a tent so my kids would be able to enjoy some shade, when, out of the early-morning fog walked none other than Paterno.  He was wearing bermuda shorts, and I knew immediately that it was JoPa because of the dark sunglasses.  As he came out of the mist, Paterno joked, “are you selling any beer?”  When I told him that story in 2005, he said he remembered, and I think he really did because Paterno even offered a few details of our chance meeting on the beach 11 years earlier.


On the Sunday during Labor Day weekend in 2005, I had the opportunity to test my arm (and my nerves) in a major league ballpark.  The Pirates asked me to throw out the first pitch before the game with the Cubs at PNC Park.  I was very excited and honored, but a little bit nervous.  I didn’t want my pitch to fall short, and end up in the dirt, or something worse.  Many “first pitches” are thrown from the grass area in front of the mound, but I wanted to see what I could do from 60 feet, 6 inches.  I ended up throwing a pretty good pitch.  It was a bit high, but over the plate, and it had some zip!  Trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks!  That’s why I’ve always been impressed with the “first pitch” that President George W. Bush threw before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.  It was only six weeks after 9-11, and the President, in front of 60 thousand fans and the world, and while wearing a vest for protection, threw an unbelievable pitch.

I think I’m closer to Jerome Bettis than any athlete I’ve ever covered.  When Jerome was still playing, we used to have regular conversations away from the cameras.  He’d give me information that hejerome-bettis-at-sb-xl-parade4 wouldn’t share with anyone else.  I witnessed many of the ups and downs of Jerome’s professional and personal life.  Being able to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy was the highest of highs.  The loss of his father was the lowest.  Jerome signed with NBC Sports shortly after I started at WPXI-TV, Pittsburgh’s NBC affiliate.  The “NBC connection” seemed fitting.  The 2009 season was my fourth as the primary host of The Jerome Bettis Show, which is my favorite part of the week during football season.

the-white-house3I’m a bit of a Presidential history buff, so when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, I was excited to get the call to go to the White House to cover the East Room ceremony when the team was honored by President Bush on June 2, 2006.  It was a beautiful late-spring morning when I arrived in Washington, DC, and it was funny to be able to tell the cab driver to take me to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!  After arriving, I entered through a security gate, tonysnow5but only after the Secret Service checked my name from the Steelers list.  Then, after a security check, I was cleared to enter the grounds, and was told to walk up the long driveway to the Executive Mansion.  I remember thinking how amazing it was that I was walking all by myself, without any kind of an escort, inside the White House gates!  One of the first people I ran into was United States Senator Rick Santorum, who was also there for the ceremony.  I entered the White House through a side door at the West Wing, and into the famous img_04631White House Press Room, which I had seen so many times on television.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was walking into the middle of a briefing by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.  I moved to the back of the room and took it all in.  I also took a few pictures!  It was quite a bit different than a Bill Cowher News Conference!  By the way, the Press Room is much smaller than it looks on television.  Later in the day, alby-white-house-6-2-063I even had a chance to actually do some work in the Press Room in the moments leading up to my live reports, which were done from the area next to the driveway on the northwest lawn, the standard spot for all White House live shots.  Here’s a freeze frame from the Channel 11 newscast that day.

While at the White House, I also had a chance encounter with an old friend.  I was interviewing some Steelers fans in the White House Press Corp, when I asked about the hometown of a guy I was interviewing.  He laughed, and only then did I realize that I was talking to one of my high school classmates, Dan Huff, albydanhuffwhitehouse3who was working as a photographer for Associated Press.  Dan’s the guy next to me in the Jack Lambert jersey.  This picture was taken right outside the West Wing!  Dan and I hadn’t seen each other in more than 25 years, but we got caught up quickly.  Dan was even nice enough to give me a personal tour of the area around, and under the Press Room, where I got a glimpse of something not many people get to see.  It was a huge storage area about the size of a swimming pool—in fact, it was a swimming pool, and the place where Franklin Roosevelt used to receive swim therapy for his polio.  The pool hadn’t been used for years, but on the storage room rafters built around it were hundreds of signatures that had been scribed over the years by members of the White House Press Corp.  Dan and I stepped down a ladder into the “deep end” and I signed my name big and bold, just like John Hancock!  It was a great day, and Dan and I have kept in touch ever since.  Talk about a small world!

alby-leyland-6-30-066Later in June of 2006, I interviewed Jim Leyland on his first trip to Pittsburgh as Manager of the Tigers.  I’ve known Jim for more than 20 years.  He was a neighbor of mine in Pittsburgh, and our children attended  school together.  We’ve stayed close through the years, and I love hearing his opinion on sports, or on any other subject.  Nobody deserved to win a World Series more than Jim.  I hope he wins another one in Detroit.mark-cuban7

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban came back home for a pre-season game in 2006.  Cuban and I went to the same high school.  He was two years ahead of me in school, and about four billion dollars ahead of me in the dot.com boom.  Cuban knows how to get things done.

Myron Cope left the Steelers broadcast booth after the 2004 season,myron-cope-20052 but he returned as a visitor in 2005.  We posed for this picture that day, and I’m glad, because it’s one of the few photos I have with Myron.  This particular picture was taken on a cell phone camera, which you may have assumed from the poor quality.  I knew Myron well, having worked closely with him for nine years at one of the “other” television stations in Pittsburgh.  We remained friends until he died.  He was always a captive audience for my stories, and he laughed hard at my imitations and jokes.  I always took that as a great compliment.

tiger-woods-20074I don’t know Tiger Woods, but I think I might have frightened him after a practice round at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, when I penetrated his security perimeter and asked for a one-on-one interview.  Woods was only available to us in large-scale news conferences.  This picture was taken at the very moment that Tiger politely but forcefully declined my interview request.  It reminded me of when Bill Russell turned me down ten years earlier (see picture above).

Later in 2007,albyjamiedixonflames3 I served as a “Celebrity Chef” with Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon.  Jamie and I took it to a new level!  This photo was snapped after I used a lighter to ignite the food that was sizzling on the cooktop.  You can see the lighter in my right hand.  Take a look at Dixon’s face.  I don’t think he trusts me!  In fact I know he doesn’t.  After all, I’m a Villanova guy!

The closest I’ll get to politics in this gallery is to post pictures of my encounters with three United States Presidents.presbushalby22 That’s a fair way of presenting some tremendous moments without compromising my political objectivity!!!  I had gone my entire life without ever meeting a U.S. President, but in 2008, I pulled off a remarkable double by meeting and shaking hands with two Presidents in a span of one month!  The 43rd President,presclintonalby4 George Walker Bush was first, followed 24 days later by the 42nd President, William Jefferson Clinton.  I’m often asked which one had more charisma.  My answer is, each was a powerful presence.  As you’ll see if you keep reading, I also have a picture with Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. President (but only the 43rd man to serve as President).  That’s because Grover Cleveland served twice in non-consecutive terms!

I told my Super Bowl XLIII postgame story in one of my blogs, but for the sake of the people out there who have no idea what goes into getting an interview, here it is again.  Immediately after Super Bowl XLIII, I muscled past security and asked Ben Roethlisberger to go live on the Channel 11 postgame show.albybensuper-bowl-xliii-2009-1999 He said, “okay, let’s do it.”  But when I explained that our camera location was across the field (50 yards away), Ben said, “Ox, there’s no way I’m going across the field.”  I asked again—this time, with a little more urgency in my voice.  He was adamant, “I don’t want to go through all these people.”  So without even thinking about what I was about to do, I grabbed Ben by the back of his shoulder pads and said, “Ben, you’re gonna do this interview, and I’m gonna lead you there.”  He agreed.  I didn’t know it at the time, but among the throng trying to take him away from me was Biff Henderson of Late Night with David Letterman fame.  I appear at the end of the clip, with my arm behind Ben, and “escorting” him to our live location., and “protecting” him from the tens of reporters trying to take him away from me.  WPXI was the only local station to get a live postgame interview with Ben!

Moments later, I was at it again.  I convinced Steelers President Art Rooney, II to join me live on camera with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  There were four of us walking out of the locker room and to the field.  It was an extremely long walk.  Rooney and I were joined by the Chief Negotiator for the Steelers, Omar Kahn, and by a still photographer who wanted to “capture the moment.”albyartrooneysbxliii-2-1-093 As we were walking through a rather large crowd outside the locker room, I noticed a guy trying to drive a golf cart through the masses.  I immediately stopped the guy and told him that he needed to take the Steelers owner, and the rest of us, to the sideline.  He didn’t argue (I think he may have thought I worked for the NFL).  As we were all piling on board, he said “this cart can only hold two people.”  I shot back, “well tonight, it’s gonna hold five.”  We drove across the field and right behind the live specials that were airing on the other two stations in town.  Of course, I had two things that they didn’t have…the owner AND the trophy!  If it would have been a heavyweight fight, the referee would have stopped it in the first round.  T-K-O!!!  It could be said that 25 percent of life is being there, another 25 percent is knowing what to do, and the remaining 50 percent is making people think you’re in charge!  The anchor team from the NBC station in Phoenix said they stopped (in the middle of a live broadcast) to watch me work.  A sports anchor from New York City told me that the Roethlisberger and Rooney interviews were the two greatest media moments he’s ever witnessed.  That may or may not be true, but they’re definitely the moments I’ll remember from Super Bowl XLIII.

For the fans who didn’t make it to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII, what took place two days later was just as good as the game itself.  The Steelers Super Bowl Parade didn’t disappoint,steelers-parade-2-3-093 and neither did WPXI’s coverage of the celebration.  Here’s part of a blog I wrote that day.  In all my years of working in television, I don’t think I’ve ever received the kind of response that I got  after our coverage.  Experience told me where to position myself to get the best interviews.  I arrived bright and early to “stake out” my position, and I ended up being the only television reporter stationed on the PAT Bus driveway at the entrance to The Pennsylvanian (about one hundred yards before the official start of the parade on Grant Street).  Because of where I was, because of my knowledge of the history of Pittsburgh and the Steelers, and mostly because of my relationship with the players, coaches and owners, I benefitted from a perfect opportunity to shine.  WPXI alby-hines-at-parade-2-3-091Photographer Paul Feiling managed to park our live truck near the staging area, and along with Photographer  Mike Drewecki, we had the entire driveway leading to the parade route to ourselves.  Our coverage was by far the best in town.  In fact, it wasn’t even close.  We had live interviews with many of the fans along the start of the parade route.  We also talked with Dan Rooney, Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Deshea Townsend, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Santonio Holmes, and others.  I conducted some of the interviews while riding in the trucks carrying the players!  Along the way, I almost fell off the side of Jeff Reed’s truck, stepped in horse droppings, and was asked politely to stop holding up the parade route.  For weeks, I received emails, text messages and phone calls to compliment us on our unique reports.  It was one of those events when I was reminded of why I got into television in the first place.

A few months later, Pittsburgh became the City of Champions again!  It was June 12th, and I was in Detroit for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  There’s was lots of excitement, and maybe a bit of tension as the deciding game began.  I started the night by standing against the glass and next to the Penguins bench for our pre-game show on Channel 11, and I remember looking at the faces of the Pens players as they made their way onto the ice for warm-ups.  Trust me, they were all business, and they skated with fire in their eyes, and without any hint that they were hearing the incredibly loud and raucous crowd at Joe Louis Arena.  The crowd was deafening, but the Pens took the fans out of the game.  The game went by in a blur, but certain things stand out in my mind, and always will.  I remember Sidney Crosby limping off the ice after getting squeezed awkwardly into the boards.  I remember the two goals by unlikely hero Max Talbot.  Muhammad Ali was watching the game from a private box, and I was only about five feet from Ali as Talbot scored the second of his two goals.  Then, near the middle of the third period, I worked my way down to the service level and prepared for our post-game show, but instead of standing in line with the rest of the media, I detoured under the stands, as I had done five or six times over the course of the 2008 and 2009 post-seasons.  It was dark and damp under the seats, and I had to be careful not to trip over the metal floor girders.  The entire area was covered with litter and debris that had fallen through the seats.  It smelled like stale beer, and wet drips from beer, soda and water were falling all around me.  There were several rat traps that were positioned to capture or kill the legendary rodents of this old arena.  I eventually found our WPXI photographer, and we stopped directly behind the Penguins bench, right next to the runway to their locker room.  After several discussions with the NHL security and communications staffs, we were allowed to stay put.  We couldn’t see much of the action of the final two minutes, except for some sneaked peeks through the cracks of the seats, but we knew exactly what was going on from the loud reaction of the fans above us.  In fact, we could literally feel the noise as the stands vibrated violently.  Finally, as Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury held off that last-second flurry, the players jumped with excitement and poured onto the ice.  At that moment, we were standing at the Penguins bench, although we were weren’t permitted on the ice, and we couldn’t go on-the-air until NBC’s coverage ended.  When the network finally ended its coverage, we picked it right up, and within seconds, our news anchors introduced me on the ice, where I was following Sidney Crosby with the hopes of a live comment.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but Crosby was being led to an area next to the bench for an interview with a Canadian network, and just as the anchors threw to me, I tapped Crosby’s shoulder and told him we were live in Pittsburgh.  The Canadian network producer was livid as I took Crosby away from them for a live interview on WPXI.  We had a wireless camera with a wireless microwave setup which sent our signal outside to the truck and directly back to Pittsburgh.  It was a tremendous advantage that no other local television station enjoyed.  We did the rest.  The Crosby interview was followed up by interviews on the ice with Mario Lemieux, Pascal Dupuis, Petr Sykora, Eddie Johnston, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal, Dan Bylsma and Brooks Orpik.  Then we walked, on-the-air with our live camera, down the runway and into the Pens locker room.  It was live television at its best.  In the hallway, we did quick interviews with Pens Equipment Manager Dana Heinze and former Pens star Kevin Stevens.  Inside, we talked to Evgeni Malkin, Rob Scuderi, Mark Eaton, Miroslav Satan and Matt Cooke.  We were right beside Crosby as he helped Chris Kunitz drink champagne from the Cup.  We were in a perfect position to put all of the celebration live on Pittsburgh television.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we delivered a once-in-a-lifetime interview sequence.  From a coverage standpoint, it was a perfect storm.  It’s very difficult to send a live signal from a locker room and through all those layers of an arena, so we weren’t free of some minor technical glitches.  There were also some issues with the sounds I was hearing through my earpiece.  I was listening to our post-game special, and was getting cues from the control room, through a wire from my cell phone, but as the night unfolded, I started to receive hundreds of calls, text messages and emails from friends, co-workers, and even the competition.  The problem is, every time I received a call, text or email, the phone rang in my ear.  It became a bit of a distraction.  But the positives far outweighed the negatives.  I even received a text from a friend at one of the other Pittsburgh television stations saying, “no mas” and telling me that they were “retreating” to their regularly-scheduled programming.  The stars were aligned, and despite those minor technical issues, our post-game coverage was unprecedented and unmatched.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Pens win a few more Stanley Cups, but I don’t think I’ll ever have another television experience like the night of June 12, 2009.

The remarkable year continued with a return visit to the White House on May 21st, when the Super Bowl XLIII champions were honored by President Obama in a unique event on the South Lawn.  It was sunny and warm as we returned to Washington, and I was happy to get another opportunity to soak up the history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  IMG_8181In the 2006 White House visit, rain had forced the event inside to the East Room, so getting to see the White House from the South Lawn was very cool.  I went to our camera position by walking all alone through the Rose Garden and into the sprawling landscape on the south end of the West Wing.  After the podium portion of the event, the President joined the Steelers, and helped them put together “care packages” for the Wounded Warriors Foundation.  The tables were set up in rows, and the President eventually worked his way down each aisle, helping pack boxes at several spots along every table.  I was behind a rope and in front of the camera riser at the back of the event, so I had to get creative when the President came to within earshot of our position.  While President Obama was shaking hands about 50 feet from me, I tried to get his attention, and asked him to say hello to our cameras.  To my surprise, he turned, looked directly at us, and did just that.  Then, as the President came down the next aisle (still about 50 feet away), I  asked in a loud but respectful voice if he’d please come closer.  I was shocked to say the least when he started walking in my direction.  I had succeeded in coaxing the President of the United States to come within six feet of our cameras, and my hand-held microphone was the only one close enough to pick up his comments.  When President Obama finished, and as he turned to walk away, I jokingly asked if he’d do a television ’tease’ for me.  He stopped in his tracks, turned around with a smile on his face, and asked, “Did you just ask me to do a tease?”  Members of the White House Press Corp broke out in laughter.  I was later told that the President very rarely, if ever, accepts an invitation to approach the media ropeline, and I’ll guarantee you he’s never been asked to do a ‘tease’ by a reporter.

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More Pictures (in no particular order)…

I interviewed Lynn Swann on WDVE’s Steelers Tailgate Broadcast during Swann’s campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania.  This picture was taken two days before election day.

When Dan Rooney was honored by Washington & Jefferson College, W & J graduate and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell returned to western PA, where I interviewed him at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

In the WPXI studios with Bill Phillips, John Fedko, Jerome Bettis and Rich Walsh at a promotion shoot before the first season of The Jerome Bettis Show.

At Mellon Arena with legendary hockey commentator Don Cherry, during a break at practice in the middle of the Penguins’ amazing run to the Stanley Cup in 2009.

“A few minutes with Andy Rooney” in Tampa at the NFL Media Center on the day before Super Bowl XLIII.

“A few minutes with Dan Rooney” as we prepared to take off in Rooney’s plane at the Allegheny County Airport.  Rooney’s passion is flying, and I enjoyed a tour from the skies above Pittsburgh.

Outside Mellon Arena with Harlem Globetrotters legend Curly Neal in the December of 2009.

Ving Rhames has acted in more than 50 movies, but he’s best known for his role as Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, the character that uttered one of the more intimidating lines in the history of cinema, “I’m gonna git medieval on your ass.”  When I met Rhames at Steelers Training Camp in 2009, I asked him to recite that line for me.  Rhames was in western PA for the premiere of Bridge To NowhereI’ve been in four media charity races at the Meadows.  In this 1996 photo, I’m on the left side of the sulkie (in the blue colors) and sitting next to veteran harness driver Doug Snyder.  The difference must have been the final crack of the whip because we held off a challenge and finished first!

“Holy Cow, it’s Harry Caray!”  At this moment, I may have been thinking, “Wow, his glasses are huge!”  Caray was a very nice guy, and carved his niche as one of the unique personalities in baseball, and one of the true voices of the game.

Brady Quinn is also a nice guy, although much taller than Harry Caray.  Quinn and a group of his teammates ate dinner at Bruce Gradkowski’s parent’s house when the Browns came to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers at the end of the 2008 season.

I always felt that Pitt receiver Larry Fitzgerald deserved to win the Heisman Trophy in 2003.  He finished runner-up by a very slim margin to Oklahoma’s Jason White.  This photo was taken late that season at the Pitt practice facility on the Southside.

Donnie Iris plays in my charity golf tournament ever year, and I always tell him that he doesn’t need to wear a name-tag!  After all, he’s a rock star!  For real!

If you never imitated Richie Hebner’s unconventional batting swing, then you must not have grown up in Pittsburgh.  Hebner was one of my sports idols when I was young, and I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in 1991, at the reunion of the Pirates 1971 World Series team.

In 2006, Pittsburgh hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star game for a fifth time, and included in the weekend of festivities was a charity softball game at West Field in Munhall, where the legendary Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays used to play.  One of my teammates that day was another legend, Bruno Sammartino, the longest-running champion of the World Wide Wrestling Federation.

This image was from Sidney Crosby’s rookie season.  It was taken in front of his locker at the Iceoplex at Southpointe.

It seems like yesterday that we posed for this Billboard photo.  It was actually 1989!  I’m joined by Delton Hall, Bill Hillgrove, Myron Cope, Mike Webster, Guy Junker, Stan Savran and Craig Wolfley.  Five of us are still working in the Pittsburgh media.  That’s remarkable.

I’ll continue to add to this gallery.  Thank you for logging into shultsford.com and Ox Talks for Shults Ford and Shults Ford Lincoln Mercury!