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John Callaghan, 81; sports broadcaster

John E. Callaghan worked for WNAC-TV, Channel 7, for about two decades. John E. Callaghan worked for WNAC-TV, Channel 7, for about two decades.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Kate Augusto
Globe Correspondent / March 12, 2008

John E. Callaghan, a longtime sports anchor for Channel 7, died March 5 at Fairview Commons in Great Barrington of lung cancer. He was 81.

Starting in the late 1950s, Mr. Callaghan, of Pittsfield, spent 21 years covering some of the greatest Boston sports moments for WNAC-TV Channel 7, including the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox and the Boston Celtics' domination of the NBA. Mr. Callaghan helped popularize the nickname "The Cardiac Kids" to describe the '67 Sox, his family said.

Mr. Callaghan's son, Sean E. of Pittsfield, said his father's on-air personality and strong baritone voice made him stand out. "He always used highfalutin language," his son said. Instead of "The crowd went wild" Mr. Callaghan would say "Fans were right out of their tree!"

Mr. Callaghan was born in Pittsfield but loved his Irish roots. He started his broadcasting career at age 16, working at WBEC and WBRK in Pittsfield.

After graduating high school, Mr. Callaghan was a rifleman and military policeman in World War II, earning a Bronze Star, among other distinctions. In postwar Berlin, he was a broadcaster with the Armed Forces Radio. After his discharge, Mr. Callaghan earned a degree in speech from Fordham University, where he was also senior class president.

After a stint at WMAL in Washington, D.C., Mr. Callaghan returned to Massachusetts to work at WNAC radio, and he was heard across New England on the Yankee Network News Service. He also joined the staff at Channel 7.

Though most of his work was in sports, Mr. Callaghan also covered news. For example, he covered President John F. Kennedy at his summer home in Hyannisport and accompanied the president with other media on a trip to his ancestral home in Ireland in 1963. Mr. Callaghan returned to Ireland later that year to cover Irish reaction to Kennedy's assassination.

When it came to sports, Mr. Callaghan had many connections.

Sean Callaghan said his father was one of a very few people who called Red Auerbach "Arnold" instead of "Red."

"He had the ability to fit in with all levels of people," his son said. "From cops and Red Sox fans to politicians."

After he left Channel 7 in the early 1970s, Mr. Callaghan worked for the Massachusetts secretary of state's office and served as an inspector for the State Lottery Commission.

During his retirement, his son said, Mr. Callaghan was "The Voice" of The Sunday Sounds of Ireland, a radio show in Berkshire Country.

Besides Sean, Mr. Callaghan leaves two other sons, William H. J. of Plainfield and Patrick E. II of South Portland, Maine; a daughter, Ellen Jennifer Conti of Milford, N.H.; a sister, Elizabeth Bova of Virginia; and seven grandchildren.

Services have been held.

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