On Wednesday afternoon the Chicago White Sox and their long-time play-by-play announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson announced that “The Hawk” would be stepping away from broadcasting at the conclusion of the 2018 Major League Baseball season. Harrelson began his tenure with the White Sox in the spring of 1982, before becoming the White Sox General Manager in 1986.
Harrelson only spent one season as the GM on the south side, but certainly left his mark as he made a slew of moves that were less than stellar to say the least. Those moves included firing Manager Tony La Russa, and Assistant GM Dave Dombrowski before making another gaffe by trading rookie Bobby Bonilla to Pittsburgh for Jose DeLeon. Bonilla went on to make six all-star appearances during his career, La Russa went on to become a Hall of Fame skipper, and Hawk was back in the broadcast booth by 1987.
After his brief cup of coffee in the Chicago front office, Hawk spent the next decade and change moving around from various broadcasting jobs before finally returning to Chicago just in time for the inaugural season at the New Comiskey Park.
Thirteen years after his departure from the south side, Harrelson returned to the White Sox organization to become the White Sox broadcaster once again during the spring of 1990, and has remained in the position for the last 27 years, but year number 18 will be his final season in the booth. The 75-year old broadcaster is in his second season of working a reduced schedule that includes all 81 road games as well as select home games like Opening Day and the Crosstown Classic games, while newcomer Jason Benetti has served as the White Sox play-by-play man for the remaining home games with analyst Steve Stone.
During the 2018 season Harrelson will work primarily Sunday home games, a greatly reduced schedule that will ease him into his impending retirement, and allow Hawk to limit his travel to the ballpark to a handful of times during the 2018 season. Benetti of course will assume the brunt of the schedule moving forward, and eventually assume the full-time role in the spring of 2019 after signing a multi-year deal to remain the team’s play-by-play man on Wednesday afternoon.
I would have to go all the way back to the mid-nineties to recall my first Hawk experience, as a young child watching ballgames with my father on television, Hawk’s homer mentality, his jubilant show of emotion, and famous catch phrases were gravitating for a young baseball fan learning to enjoy taking in ballgames on a nightly basis.
For my entire childhood, and the majority of my adolescent years I still loved the old “Hawk-a-roo” and his “Kansas City Specials” for the most part. I learned growing up listening to Harrelson and a combination of his partners that included Steve “Wimpy” Paciorek, Darrin Jackson and Steve Stone, that while White Sox fans loved his excitable personality and homer mentality, the rest of the league, especially the Cubs fans in particular were not a fan of the experience.
I can’t even count the amount of times that I have recited Hawk’s catch phrases when watching a game with my Dad, or playing baseball in the yard with my brothers, or even at the park with my friends (my Cubs’ fan friends really hated that, and that’s why I did it). Nearly every Chicago White Sox game began with Hawk’s famous “Sit back, relax, and strap it down for some White Sox baseball!” While most victories ended with the signature “This ballgame is ovaaahhh!” Hawkism.
Of course, who can forget the most famous of them all; “You can put it on the board, Yesss!”
In recent years, myself, as well as a considerable amount of Sox fans have lost some of the adoration for the Hawk that we once shared. Like most things in life, all good things must come to an end, and after nearly three decades of Hawk being the voice, and sometimes the face of a franchise that has experienced limited success during that time span, it is indeed time for the next chapter in the White Sox booth.
That next chapter in the White Sox broadcast booth will feature Jason Benetti, a local kid and a life-long fan of the White Sox. Benetti is a graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, and attended Syracuse University and Wake Forest University before settling into a job with ESPN calling NCAA Basketball. Benetti also worked for the Syracuse Chiefs, the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate calling baseball games. Before the 2016 season, Benetti landed his dream job, even if it was on a part-time basis for the time being.
Benetti has drawn mixed reviews to this point, with the vast majority of the feedback being of the positive variety from White Sox fans. Benetti has a dryer/quirkier style than Hawk did during his days in the booth, but his humor helps keep fans entertained throughout the game. His best quality just might be one that requires the least effort, one that Sox fans have desired for some time now, that being his ability to set Steve Stone up with plenty of time to provide analysis, something that few are better than him at.
Personally, the Benetti/Stone duo is a fine choice in my opinion, and I feel that they work great together and feature a matching level of snark in their dry humor and conversation despite their large difference in age.
While I’ll always love the memories of Hawk being the voice of the White Sox, I am welcoming the transition, and from what I’ve gauged, I’m not alone in that opinion.
Harrelson said today in the White Sox dugout as he made the announcement to the media that, “This has been the greatest ride of my life, and it’s been a lot of fun with these fans,” Harrelson said. “I’ll never forget anything that has to do with this, nothing. I’ll remember it forever.”
I have to say that most fans, or at least this fan, echo the same sentiment towards “The Hawk”. So Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, “Dadgummit!”, Thanks for the Memories!