Ken Harrelson, better known by generations of Southsider’s as “Hawk Harrelson”, bids adieu to the Chicago White Sox broadcast booth after spending the last 27 seasons in the Cat Bird’s Seat as the enthusiastic voice of the Chicago White Sox television broadcast.
This weekend’s series with the Cleveland Indians will be the last of Harrelson’s career as a regular in the White Sox broadcast booth, with only a couple of games on the slate for Hawk in 2018 before he hangs it up for good, this is a bittersweet weekend for many. In recent years, some, myself included, have grown tiresome of Hawk’s homer mentality at times. Not because we don’t love Hawk, but because the product on the field has been so bad at times in recent years, that Hawk’s homer mentality comes off as wildly off-base and unwarranted.
Never the less, I have been listening to Hawk as the voice of the White Sox for each and every summer of my entire life. I was born in 1990, the first season that Harrelson rejoined the White Sox broadcast, and for me, White Sox games will never quite be the same.
I have a deep passion for baseball, a borderline obsession almost, especially during my youth years. I sometimes reference my father in baseball and White Sox related editorials, because he built the burning passion that I have for baseball. He fueled my desire to play baseball, collect every Topps card I could get my hands on, and spend every waking moment of summer break playing baseball somewhere. Even now as an adult my passion for baseball drives me to coach baseball, develop young baseball players and share my knowledge with them while covering and analyzing my favorite game in the world on the platforms that I have been given.
I can tell you, that spending every evening and Sunday afternoon that I was with my Dad watching White Sox games fueled this love of baseball more than anything else. I can also tell you that Ken Harrelson‘s iconic “Hawk-isms” played a huge part in that as well.
Playing wiffle ball or pick-up baseball in the yard or at the park on the South side of Chicago, I remember vividly my friends and I chanting those “Hawk-isms” as we slapped a tattered baseball deep over the wooden fence in a pal’s back yard, or exclaiming, “He Gone!” as I fired a modest fastball that felt like a sure 96 mile-per-hour heater at the ripe age of 11 past one of my buddies. Or laying in bed on school nights and listening to the fireworks go off a few blocks from my house at Comiskey Park, knowing that the White Sox had hit a home run and playing Hawk’s famous home run call in my head as I fell asleep, “You can put it on the board, Yessss!”
While I have a burning passion for the game of baseball inside of me, Hawk Harrelson has a burning passion for baseball that you would be hard pressed to find a match for, a passion that we all should be envious of. Ken Harrelson, a kid who originally wanted to play collegiate basketball at the University of Kentucky when he was in high school, has been a part of Major League Baseball for that last 54 years in one capacity or another.
In 1963 Harrelson made his Major League Baseball debut playing for the Kansas City Athletics, and played in 900 Major League Baseball games before retiring mid-season in 1971 due to a broken leg that he suffered in Spring Training. After posting a career .239 batting average and hitting 131 home runs and 421 RBI, the old “Hawk-a-roo” hung up his famous single batting glove to pursue a professional golf career.
But Hawk’s passion for baseball would not allow him to leave the game for long. Hawk joined the legendary Dick Stockton in the Boston Red Sox broadcast booth in 1975 before he was fired after the 1981 season for being critical of players on the Red Sox roster. A precursor to the fire and passion that Hawk would display in his broadcasts over parts of the next five decades.
After three seasons (1982-1985) in the White Sox booth, Harrelson tried his hand in the front office, becoming the General Manager of the Chicago White Sox. After trading then rookie Bobby Bonilla and firing Hall of Fame Manager Tony La Russa, Hawk would return to the booth in 1987 with the New York Yankees.
In 1990, White Sox Owner and Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf made sweeping changes to the White Sox brand as they opened their new stadium “New Comiskey Park”, going to the iconic black and white pinstripe uniforms that the White Sox still wear today. With the re-branding of the club in full swing, Reinsdorf also brought a man with the enthusiasm and passion to match the sweeping changes back to the White Sox booth, and Harrelson was paired with Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek. The rest was history in the White Sox booth.
While Wimpy departed after the 1999 season and his replacement Darrin Jackson was replaced by Steve Stone prior to the start of the 2009 season, Hawk remained the voice of the White Sox through all of the changes, delivering his signature catch phrases and his fiery love for baseball and the White Sox in each and every ballgame.
There wasn’t a bigger “bleepin'” fan of the White Sox than Hawk Harrelson over the last three decades. Hawk chastised umpires for bad calls, bashed opposing players for beaning Sox players and even went toe-to-toe with then Sun-Times loudmouth Jay Mariotti in the Press Box of the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. Hawk even infamously left the booth during a game in 2016 to run down to the clubhouse to check in the injured Todd Frazier, a move that we laughed about, but seriously how much more dedicated to your love for a team can you possibly be?
While many things in life require change, and Hawk couldn’t call White Sox games forever, the White Sox booth is in good hands with young hometown play-by-play man Jason Bennetti, but no one will ever call a White Sox game quite as passionately as Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson did.
Thank you for all of the childhood memories Hawk!