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Just six months ago, Greg Schulte listened as fellow Arizona broadcast icon Al McCoy — and close friend of 44 years — signed off from his final Phoenix Suns broadcast. Now, Schulte is preparing to do the same with the Diamondbacks.
That the two most iconic Arizona play-by-play broadcasters are retiring in the same year is not something they planned. But, for Schulte, it would not be right for one to be on the air without the other.
“Al’s been here from day one,” Schulte said. “And I have said all along: There will never be another broadcaster — and I mean, news, sports, whatever — there will never be another broadcaster as great as Al McCoy and what he has meant here to Phoenix. I mean, 51 years with one team, as many years as he’s been here in the Valley, nobody can top that.”
When Schulte moved to Phoenix in 1979, he and McCoy hit it off instantly.
Schulte had landed a job at KTAR radio, where McCoy was working as a morning host. McCoy had also been the voice of the Suns since 1972.
When McCoy’s producer engineer left for another job, McCoy asked if Schulte would step in. Schulte gladly did so.
Before long, Schulte went from producer engineer to half-time/postgame show host to color commentator.
He and McCoy got each other. They were consummate professionals. They had their fun, but they always knew that what fans wanted most was a detailed description at what transpired on the court. And that’s what they delivered.
When rumors of baseball expansion to Arizona arose in the mid-90s, McCoy put in a good word with Suns owner and soon-to-be Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo. In the process, McCoy helped Schulte make his ultimate dream a reality: becoming the voice of a Major League Baseball team.
To this day, Schulte and McCoy talk multiple times per week. They discuss life, their respective health challenges and, of course, the sports they love so dearly.
Schulte has always listened to McCoy’s broadcasts, and, even now, McCoy is still dialed in to Schulte’s.
“[Al] listens to each and every one of them,” Schulte said. “I consider that quite an honor that here I’ve got the Hall of Famer listening to me night in and night out.
“He’ll call me and he’ll say, ‘Well, they won a close one last night,’ or ‘Well, they let one get away last night.'”
For years, Schulte made a practice of turning on Suns TV broadcasts, silencing the sound and listening to McCoy on the radio. TV delays meant that McCoy was a little ahead of the action, but Schulte did not mind. He liked knowing what would happen in advance so he knew whether to shift his attention from baseball to the TV.
Whether it be this Sunday or late in October after a lengthy Diamondbacks postseason run, Schulte will soon follow McCoy in saying farewell.
He is not sure when it will happen or what he will say, but he would not have it any other way.
“Everybody always asked me did I have the seventh game of the World Series, the Gonzo hit planned out,” he said. “There’s no way you can plan things like that. I think a moment like this, you just have to kind of take it and run with it, and see how it flies.”
Schulte will be honored before Friday’s series opener against the Houston Astros. The festivities will include Schulte throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to former big-league pitcher and long-time broadcast partner Tom Candiotti, from whom he hopes he can get some tips on how to keep his arm loose.
When Schulte does sign off for that final time, he is looking forward to giving his vocal cords a long-awaited rest and getting to spend more time with his family. And, of course, more time with Al.
“I’ll get Al to some baseball games,” Schulte said. “I’m sure we’re gonna do some basketball games together. And we’ll take it as is, a chance to just kind of watch and sit back. I don’t know if we’ll start blaring out broadcast play-by-play lines, but who knows.”
If Diamondbacks make postseason, Greg Schulte plans to travel with them
Throughout the Diamondbacks’ 25-year history, no voice is more closely tied to the franchise’s biggest moments than that of Schulte.
It was Schulte who called the very first game in Diamondbacks history in 1998. It was Schulte who called Randy Johnson’s perfect game. It was Schulte who called some big hit in some big game in 2001.
It would only be fitting that, should the Diamondbacks have any big postseason moments in Schulte’s final year on the job, his voice would help tell those stories. It appears that will be the case.
Although Schulte has not traveled the past two years due to health challenges, he is planning to make an exception should the Diamondbacks crack the postseason, a scenario that has become increasingly likely in recent days as the Chicago Cubs got swept by the Atlanta Braves and the Diamondbacks took two of three from the Chicago White Sox.
Schulte’s willingness to travel is of particular consequence in the opening Wild Card round of the postseason, in which the Diamondbacks would play the entirety of the three-game series on the road against either the Philadelphia Phillies or Milwaukee Brewers.
Throughout the regular season, radio pre/postgame show host Chris Garagiola has taken over play-by-play duties for away games. Garagiola, too, would be featured on any potential postseason road broadcasts.
“Chris is going to do some play-by-play in the middle innings,” Schulte said. “He is more than deserving of that, having done road games for the last two years. He needs an opportunity and should receive an opportunity to do some innings on each of the ballgames.”
Before the start of the 2023 season, Schulte announced that this year, his 26th on the job, would be his last.
Behind the scenes, he had actually expected 2022 to be his final year on the job, but health challenges forced him away from the broadcast booth for a significant portion of the season. He did not want to go out like that, so he returned for one more year.
Throughout 2023, Schulte has been relishing every moment, a task made considerably easier by the fact that the Diamondbacks are an exciting young team.
“The year Corbin Carroll has had is one of the greatest rookie years in the history of baseball,” Schulte said. “Alek Thomas is as good as any center fielder in baseball. As good as Steve Finley was in center field, I think Alek Thomas has caught [Finley] as far as his ability to play in that center field; the good breaks he gets on balls.
“[Gabriel] Moreno is going to be an All-Star catcher for years to come. This kid’s unbelievable behind the plate, and he’s only 23 years old in his first full season … Zac Gallen has gotten to 17 wins. Merrill Kelly has been good again. I think the Diamondbacks have kind of figured out the bullpen a little bit, at least I think they’ve got some key parts going into 2024 that way.
“It’s a really nice situation to be involved in a pennant chase for the Diamondbacks because that takes a lot of the attention off me and I could just kind of go about my business.”
The Diamondbacks would clinch a postseason berth with one win over the weekend against the Houston Astros, among other scenarios.
If they do, it would be the eighth time in franchise history — and thus the eighth time in Schulte’s tenure — in which the Diamondbacks made the postseason. Like many in the Valley, Schulte is hoping it happens.
“For one final time in 26 years,” he said, “that would be the coup de grâce.”
Top courtesy of Greg Schulte
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