Tom Greene | December 11th, 2019
The Iconic Chicago White Sox play-by-play broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson has just won the Ford C. Frick Award, an award that compliments excellence in the world of baseball broadcasting.
A lot of people on the South Side of Chicago and the nation loved him. A lot of people in the same areas hated him. But one thing is for sure, he brought a passionate voice to the game of baseball that was very unique and one-of-a-kind. Calls like, “You can put it on the board… YES!”, “Stretch! Stretch!”, “Get Foul!”, “Dadgum it!” and, “You gotta be BLEEPING me!” have made it into the vernacular of baseball fans across the nation and will never be forgotten. Let’s take a look at how he got to the White Sox Television booth.
Hawk Harrelson played for four Major League teams in his playing career. The Kansas City Athletics (1963-1966, 1967), Washington Senators (1966, 1967), Boston Red Sox (1967-1969) and the Cleveland Indians (1969-1971). While he was in Kansas City (and most anywhere else) he had a way with his words. He called owner Charlie Finley, “A menace to baseball.”. While he denies this Washington newspaper report, it led to his release from Kansas City, and into his tenure in Boston.
While he played, he was also known for using a batting glove, simply because he forgot to take off his golf glove after a round of golf. While it’s disputed (due to Peter Morris’ book, A Game of Inches) that he was the first to do so, he certainly was the first to re-introduce or modernize the usage of a batting glove in the game of baseball.
As explained, he was certainly unique. Now, onto his post-playing career.
Working in the Front Office
Yes, Hawk did this for a very, very short time. In 1986, after starting his broadcasting career, he was the GM of the White Sox. During this time (and he confirms this in an interview on MLB Network), his temper got the best of him. His notable moves were firing Tony LaRussa and Dave Dombrowski as well as trading Bobby Bonilla for Jose DeLeon.
Again, it was not one of the finest hours in his career. But, this led him to go in another direction. One that became the reason why this article is being written.
Hawk made a few different stops in his career in the booth, similar to how many stops he made in his playing career. He began in 1975 with the Boston Red Sox on WSBK as the color analyst. (To any Red Sox fans reading this, imagine if he was in the booth for NESN instead of Jerry Remy. That would be quite interesting, to say the least!). Like his playing career, his criticism of Haywood Sullivan got him axed after the 1981 season. Then, he changed Sox.
From 1982-85, he was the play-by-play guy for the White Sox. Unlike Boston, the organization loved his style so much that they allowed him to work in the front office. How that went, of course, had been mentioned earlier.
For both the White Sox and Harrelson to cool off some steam, NBC took him on in 1984 to do their “Game of the Week” in the Major Leagues. Then, in 1987, while he was with NBC, the New York Yankees took him on. That, along with NBC, was short-lived, as he became a free agent again in 1989.
After some cooling off, the Sox brought him back in 1990. This is where he flourished and the legend was cemented in the broadcasting booth. Every game was brought to you by his play-by-play voice until 2016, where he cut down his schedule. Eventually, he retired at the end of 2018 and has now won the Ford C. Frick award.
Hawk worked with great personalities during his time in the booth. Dick Stockton, Tom Paciorek, Darrin “DJ” Jackson, and Steve Stone were mainly with him. While they were different calling games with him (for example, DJ would say “YES!” with Hawk when he made the famous call, Steve wouldn’t), Hawk remained the same.
Again, while Hawk was widely criticized by many in the national market (GQ in 2010 called Harrelson and Stone the “Worst Pair of Broadcasters in Baseball), Hawk stayed the course, stayed himself, and he is being awarded the highest honor in the world of Baseball Broadcasting today.
Personally, watching Hawk was something I always looked forward to in years past when Baseball season came around. He was biased when he commentated, but his partners (especially Steve Stone) would credit the other team when it deserved recognition. Hawk did, too, just not very enthusiastically. (I don’t blame him!)
The biasness, while not recommended to up and coming broadcasters, is what made him unique. While he praised his Sox, he was critical of them, too. He was your best friend and your worst enemy in the booth if you wore the Sox uniform. He was not just a voice of praise. He was a voice of reason.
His best times in the booth, in my opinion, was when he was with Steve Stone. Steve is someone that provides top-notch analysis, and he didn’t sugarcoat anything. If you were great, he’d say that. If you were terrible, he’d say that. While very mild-mannered, he was also a great friend and enemy, dependent on your play.
While hated by many, he was loved by many, many more. And, he was definitely one of my favorites. Here are some more memorable calls if you’d like to hear them.
Congrats on winning the award, Hawk! It’s well-deserved!
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