BOSTON — The good news is Steve Holman inching closer to an all-time record.
The bad news is to get there, you have to be around a long, long time. In other words, you’re old.
The Lawrence native and Atlanta Hawks’ radio play by play man hit a milestone of sorts in Minneapolis, Minn. on Wednesday night.
Holman, who turns 66 on March 5, worked his 2,633rd consecutive broadcast of a Hawks basketball game, an impressive 127-120 win on the road.
That number means something. It’s one more than consecutive major league game than Cal Ripken played — 2,632 — in setting the “Iron Man” record over the course of 16 years.
“I had no idea until someone mentioned it the next day,” said Holman. “It’s sort of crazy when you hear Ripken’s name and that streak. But sports is about stats and numbers.”
Because NBA teams play half the games (82) that MLB teams do (162), Holman’s road to Ripken’s streak has taken twice as long. Yup, 30 seasons without missing a game.
“My dad (Harold) worked as a draftsman when I was a kid,” recalled Holman, who has often called his dad his hero. “And he hated his work. But he went everyday. So he taught me to go to work everyday ... The only difference is that I love my job. I love everything about it; the travel, the players, the people I meet.”
Holman makes no bones about it. The streak is important to him.
And the big prize is ex-Lakers broadcasting legend Chick Hearn, who amassed 3,338 consecutive games (regular season and playoffs) from November of 1965 to December of 2001. Hearn passed away in 2002.
Including tonight’s game in Boston with the Celtics, that puts Holman 705 games away from breaking the record. If you do a little math, that’s about 8 1/2 seasons or less, if Hawks get a bevy of playoff wins.
That means Holman would be 74 years old. That sounds old until you compare some of the other play-by-play guys: Al McCoy (86) of Phoenix Suns; Gary Gerould (80), Sacramento Kings; George Blaha (76), Detroit Pistons TV/radio; and Mike Gorman (72), Celtics TV. Ralph Lawler, formerly of the L.A. Clippers radio broadcast, retired last spring at 80.
While he’s got some company in the Age Dept., they don’t have his consecutive streak. How does he do it?
“The biggest change in recent years is I’ve focused on my health and staying in shape,” said Holman. “I’m on the treadmill every day for an hour. And I’m eating better. Honestly, I’m in better shape now than I was 20 years ago.”
Luck is also part of the equation. Holman has been sick with colds and flu-like symptoms too many times to count, but nothing so bad he couldn’t announce the games.
There have been a few scares, like on Dec. 11 in Chicago, when a ball hit Holman, broadcasting on the floor, in the nose area. His glasses went flying.
“The crazy thing is we don’t sit on the floor in many arenas any more. Chicago is one of the few and I noted that early in the broadcast that night,” said Holman. “There was about six minutes left in the half when (Hawks) Cam Reddish tries to throw a pass and (Bulls) Kris Dunn kicks the ball accidentally.
“The ball then ricocheted sideways and hit me,” he said. “They stopped play for a bit. It started bleeding. The Bulls trainer came over and basically held a gauze pad on my nose to keep the blood from leaking the rest of the half.”
Then at halftime, he went into the Bulls locker room and they put liquid stitches where he was cut and he was ready for work at the beginning of the third quarter.
Two years ago last month was probably the closest Holman came to ending the streak. His son, Steve Holman Jr., died from kidney and liver failure.
“That was tough,” said Holman. “I spoke at the Funeral and the team hosted a reception back at the arena. It was incredible. I ended up doing the game that night. Honestly, the steak was a big deal to Junior. He always talked about it. He would’ve been ticked off if I didn’t do the game.”
Holman had high hopes for the 2019-20 Hawks team, now 14-38, but a few key injuries have finished any hopes of a playoff spot.
Watching Trae Young, who is averaging 29.3 points and 9.0 assists develop into a superstar has been treat.
“It takes time and a little luck,” said Holman. “We just made a move to get (Clint) Capela in a trade with Houston. That’s huge. When we’re healthy with John Collins and DeAndre Hunter, we’re a tough team to play. I’m excited about the direction of the team over the next 30 games, and really the next few years.”
Yes, that’s “years” and Holman hopes there’s many more of them.
“I love this job,” said Holman. “I hope to do this a lot longer ... as long as they’ll keep me.”
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holman high on C’s
Long-time Hawks radio play-by-play man Steve Holman has seen a lot of Celtics basketball over the years, first working under Johhny Most early in his career, and then later on the opposite side, with the Hawks.
For most of that run, 30-plus years, the Celtics have been the better team, of course led by the Larry Bird Celtics versus the Dominique Wilkins Hawks.
Holman saw the 2019-20 Celtics in Atlanta four days ago on Feb. 3. The C’s won 123-115.
“I think there are a few teams at the top, like Milwaukee, Miami, Toronto and the Celtics that all have a shot at winning the East,” said Holman. “What I like about the Celtics is their toughness. They are tenacious. They grind you. Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of the team. Milwaukee may have the best record when the season ends, but the Celtics could win the East.”