"What is the deal with Marv's age?" asks Steve Albert, 40. "If he's 45, like he says, then I must be 14. Any day now, I'll pass him."
"We have a deep, dark family secret," says Marv Albert. "Al and Steve are both able to play the accordion."
Even 75-year-old Max Albert, their father, can get into the act. "My wife, Alida, may she rest in peace, we would take her to the biggest Knick or Ranger playoff game that Marv was doing, and she would take her knitting. After the game she would go up to Marv and say, 'Your hair looked nice tonight.' "
But seriously, folks, this is a very close family. Al may be in Denver doing the Nuggets and boxing for USA Network, Steve may be in San Francisco doing the Warriors and boxing for Showtime, Marv may be in New York doing the Rangers, the Knicks, NFL football, NBA basketball and boxing for NBC, and Max may be sitting in Cliffside Park, N.J., or Coconut Creek, Fla., keeping tabs on his sons, not to mention his grandson, but in a way, they are all still in their Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, backyard. "Even now, I can see them playing in the yard," says Max, who back then was grocer Max Aufrichtig, son of Nathan Aufrichtig. "Beautiful grass, except for the patches where Marv and Al took turns pitching and hitting. Because he was the youngest, poor Steve was always the catcher."
In later years, when interviewers asked the Alberts if their father was in the business, they would invariably reply, "No, but our mother was. She used to do the Memphis Tarns for Charles O. Finley in the old ABA." What made this funny to them was that Alida, who died in February 1990, knew nothing about sports. In fact, she tried desperately to broaden the kids' horizons by signing them up for lessons—art, tap dance, piano, accordion. None of them took, however, because the Aufrichtig kinder were mad for sports. "We were like the forerunners of ESPN," says Al. "We played every sport, and whatever sport we played, we announced at the same time. We even staged the Hamster Olympics, starring our hamsters, Ambrose and Zachary."
As far back as the third grade at P.S. 195, Marv wanted to be a sportscaster. He even had his own station—WMPA, the call letters standing for Marvin Philip Aufrichtig. He was a ball boy for the New York Knicks and an office boy for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was president of both the Jim Baechtold Fan Club (Baechtold being his favorite Knick) and the Brooklyn branch of the Solly Hemus Fan Club (Hemus being an infielder for the Cardinals who had once been nice to Marv). He practiced his play-by-play in an Ebbets Field employees' booth that was unfortunately near the box of owner Walter O'Malley, who had him banished to a distant section. When Marv was in junior high, he was picked by young radio announcer Howard Cosell to appear on his show All-League Clubhouse, for which Marv interviewed such sports notables as Jackie Robinson and Bobby Thomson. The Aufrichtig family gathered around the radio in the living room to hear Marv ask his questions.
(I'm just trying to set the scene here, Mr. Albert. Was the radio a Zenith, a Philco or what?
"Philco, schmilko, whatever you want to write is fine with me. Who's gonna know?")
After Marv went to Syracuse University to pursue his broadcasting career, the family decided for his sake to change its name, since Aufrichtig was something of a mouthful. Steve recalls telling his grade-school teacher, "Miss Shaughnessy, I have a new name. It's Albert."
In January 1963, Marv received his first big break. Marty Glickman, the Knick broadcaster for whom Marv kept statistics, couldn't do a game in Boston because he was stuck in a snowstorm in Paris, so Marv, 20 at the time, got the call. When Marv got to Boston Garden, though, the security guard wouldn't let him and Al, his 14-year-old statistician, through the press gate. Yeah, right, you kids are doing the Knick game. Knick general manager Eddie Donovan had to be summoned 45 minutes before game time to rescue them.