HOLYOKE — A legendary voice for New England sports who has been on the call for multiple decades’ worth of memorable Boston Celtics moments will be honored by the St. Patrick’s Committee of Holyoke this year.

Mike Gorman, play-by-play commentator for the Boston Celtics for the last 43 years, was chosen by the committee as this year’s John F. Kennedy National Award recipient.

The honor is awarded each year to a prominent Irish American. Gorman began calling Celtics games in 1981 and has also announced NCAA Tournament games, NBA playoff games and even at the Olympics. He grew up in Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood where he went on to serve in the U.S. Navy as an aviator.

Gorman told Reminder Publishing he was flabbergasted when he learned he would be receiving the honor.

“I’m a Dorchester guy, so I have never been to Holyoke. I never knew about this parade, never knew of any of this. And to hear the staggering numbers of people who turn out to watch this parade, as well as the remarkable list of people that have been given the JFK Award, it’s just remarkable. Sometimes I pinch myself because I think of myself as an Irishman, but never thought I’d get rewarded for being one,” Gorman said with a laugh.

While growing up as a child in Dorchester, Gorman was very much in and around Irish culture and that stemmed from his family heritage. Gorman saw this directly through his grandmother.

Gorman said while he was in kindergarten, students would go home for lunch time. With his mother working, Gorman would go to his grandmother’s home for the mid-day meal. Gorman said every time he would go inside his grandmother’s house there would be suitcases all over the inside, and people standing outside on the corners just conversing.

When he would come back after school, the suitcases and people were gone.

Every two weeks or so, Gorman noticed this pattern occurring. He came to discover Gorman’s grandmother was an unofficial resource for immigrant people and families when they first moved to America.

“When they came to the United States, they came right to her and she would immediately get them jobs in the service industry or whatever,” Gorman said. “She served and helped all these people, and she didn’t get paid for this, she did this out of generosity for what she thought was right, and I guess if there’s one feeling I have come out from being Irish it would be I’m proud of what my grandmother did.”

Gorman’s career success and heritage made him a no-brainer to be a recipient of the JFK Award, according to Parade Committee President Hayley Dunn. Led by 2020-2022 Grand Marshal Jay Driscoll, the JFK Selection Committee reviewed candidates that meet the criteria of the award.

“Mike Gorman’s name was at the top of the list, and we were so pleased when he accepted our invitation. His professional accomplishments, including his service to our country, certainly exemplify the criteria the committee sought in honoring an American of Irish descent in the spirit of President Kennedy,”

Dunn told Reminder Publishing. “Mike is a legend in the sports world, especially among the legion of Boston Celtics fans who for over 40 years have depended on his play-by-play voice. Mike’s Irish wit have made him a cherished figure in the sportscasting world, and I’m thrilled we will be honoring him with this award in his farewell season with the Celtics.”

Dunn added as an organization dedicated to celebrating Irish history, the committee looks for honorees to pay tribute to Irish Americans who have significantly contributed to their chosen fields with the esteemed JFK award. Recipients are honored during parade weekend through a dedicated dinner, the Road Race and the Bishop’s Mass, and of course are prominently featured in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade.

“As past recipients have been a ‘Who’s Who’ of various sectors — politics, sports, media, arts, etc. — parade spectators have been excited to welcome them to Holyoke with a chance of meeting and congratulating them,” Dunn said.

Some previous well known recipients of the award include legendary actress Maureen O’Hara (1982), NASA astronaut Cady Coleman (2004), former Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney (2010), and inspirational father-son duo “Team Hoyt,” Rick and Dick Hoyt (2014).

“It is unique and it’s remarkable to be given this award that I will greatly treasure even though I had never heard about it before. I never really had the chance to talk about being Irish in front of people and I’m kind of looking forward to that,” Gorman said.

Gorman is set to retire from his duties as the voice of the Boston Celtics at the end of the season, but the thought has dawned on him of the uniqueness in him being an Irish kid from Boston who went on to be the voice for four decades of the most Irish-affiliated team not only in the city, but in pro sports.

Gorman said he has thought about the Celtic connection a lot and the thing that connects for him the most is his imprint on the team’s history. He shared that about two years ago while preparing for a broadcast, Gorman was approached by a young Celtics fan decked out in gear for a photo. Gorman happily agreed and the conversation with the fan’s father that followed gave him a reminder of his legacy in Boston sports.

The father first asked Gorman how long he had been announcing, which at that time was 41 years. The father then asked what Gorman thought the average age children get really into professional sports was, to which Gorman said 9 or 10 years old.

“He said, ‘So, you’re telling me that everybody in here under the age of 50 only knows your voice,’” Gorman said. “It’s very flattering.”

Gorman has never been to the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade, but said he is looking forward to visiting the Paper City for the famous celebration. He added it was flattering to be honored by the community that cares so much about its St. Patrick’s Day celebration and its Irish heritage.

“I’ve heard that hundreds of thousands of people come and gather, and nobody knows about it south of [Route] 128,” Gorman said with a laugh, acknowledging it would be new territory for him as someone who has spent most of his life in Boston or on the road with the team. “I’m really looking forward to it. This is all new country for me.”

Gorman will be honored at the JFK Award Dinner at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on March 16, the night before the annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade.

tlevakis@thereminder.com | + posts