|First baseman / Right fielder|
September 4, 1941 |
Woodruff, South Carolina
|June 9, 1963, for the Kansas City Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 20, 1971, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Runs batted in||421|
|Career highlights and awards|
Kenneth Smith Harrelson (born September 4, 1941), nicknamed "The Hawk" due to his distinctive profile, and also nicknamed "Yox" because of his facial expressions, is a former All-Star first baseman and outfielder in Major League Baseball. He currently serves as a television broadcast announcer for the Chicago White Sox.
Harrelson was born in Woodruff, South Carolina, and his family moved to Savannah, Georgia, when he was in fifth grade. As a child Harrelson was interested in basketball and he hoped to pursue a basketball scholarship from the University of Kentucky. His parents divorced when he was eight.
He played golf, baseball, football and basketball at Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Georgia.
Throwing and batting right-handed, Harrelson played for four teams: the Kansas City Athletics (1963–66, 1967), Washington Senators (1966–67), Boston Red Sox (1967–69), and Cleveland Indians (1969–71). In his nine-season career, Harrelson was a .239 hitter with 131 home runs and 421 RBI in 900 games.
His time with the Athletics ended abruptly in 1967 when Harrelson angrily denounced team owner Charlie Finley following the dismissal of manager Alvin Dark. Saying that Finley was "a menace to baseball", Harrelson was released and ended up signing a lucrative deal with the Boston Red Sox, who were in contention to win their first pennant since 1946.
Brought in to replace the injured Tony Conigliaro, Harrelson helped the team win the pennant, but watched the team drop the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. However, in 1968, he had his finest season, making the American League All-Star team and leading the American League in runs batted in with 109. He also finished third in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting, with two Detroit Tigers finishing ahead of him—pitcher Denny McLain won the award and catcher Bill Freehan finished second.
On April 19, 1969, Harrelson was traded to the Indians, a move that shocked him and led him to briefly retire. Following conversations with commissioner Bowie Kuhn and a contract adjustment by Cleveland, Harrelson reported to the team, finishing the year with 30 home runs. He also used his local celebrity status to briefly host a half-hour TV show, "The Hawk's Nest" on local CBS affiliate, WJW-TV. Harrelson was very popular in Cleveland, with his autobiography coming out around the time of the trade to the Indians. Stories of his time as an Indian are chronicled in the book "Portrait of a Franchise: An Intimate Look at Cleveland Indians Baseball During the Rockin' Sixties" by Doug Kurkul.
During spring training the following year, Harrelson suffered a broken leg while sliding into second base during a March 19 exhibition game against the Oakland Athletics. The injury kept him on the sidelines for much of the season. When Indians rookie Chris Chambliss took over the first base position in 1971, Harrelson retired midseason to pursue a professional golf career.
Batting glove legend
Harrelson is often credited with inventing the batting glove by wearing a golf glove while at bat with the A's; however, Peter Morris' book A Game of Inches says the batting glove may have been used as early as 1901 by Hughie Jennings, and were definitely used by Lefty O'Doul and Johnny Frederick of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1932, and later by Bobby Thomson in the 1950s. Morris does credit Harrelson with reintroducing and popularizing the batting glove in the 1960s. Roger Maris also used what was thought to be a batting glove, most likely a golf glove, in the 1961 season.
General manager and broadcaster
After his time on the links brought minimal compensation over the next few years, Harrelson turned to a broadcasting career beginning in 1975 with the Red Sox on WSBK-TV partnering with Dick Stockton. He became highly popular, especially after being teamed with veteran play-by-play man Ned Martin in 1979, but after being publicly critical of player personnel decisions made by Boston co-owner Haywood Sullivan, Harrelson was fired at the close of the 1981 season.
Harrelson served as a Chicago White Sox announcer from 1982 to 1985 and briefly left broadcasting during the 1986 season to become the White Sox's General Manager. During his one season as GM, Harrelson fired field manager Tony La Russa (who was soon hired by the Oakland Athletics) and assistant general manager Dave Dombrowski (who became baseball's youngest general manager with the Montreal Expos just two years later). Harrelson also traded rookie Bobby Bonilla, later a six-time All-Star, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher José DeLeón.
From 1984–1989, Harrelson served as a backup color commentator on NBC's Game of the Week broadcasts alongside play-by-play man Jay Randolph. In 1994, Harrelson served as a broadcaster for the short-lived Baseball Network and was the US broadcaster for the Japan Series that aired through the Prime-SportsChannel regional networks.
Harrelson returned to the White Sox in 1990 as the main play-by-play announcer during television broadcasts, teaming up with Tom Paciorek until 2000 and Darrin "DJ" Jackson from 2000 to 2008. In 2009, former Chicago Cubs color analyst Steve Stone, who broadcast with the late Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray and later Chip Caray, began accompanying Harrelson in the television booth. During this time he won five Emmy Awards and two Illinois Sportscaster of the Year awards. However, In 2010, GQ named Harrelson and broadcast partner Steve Stone the worst pair of broadcasters in baseball.
Catch phrases, criticism and nicknames
Harrelson is known for his homerism (open expression of pro-home team bias) and catch phrases, also known as "Hawkisms". Popular "Hawkisms" include: "You can put it on the board! Yes! Yes!" after a Sox home run, "He gone!" and/or "Grab some bench!" after a strikeout of an opposing player, and "Stretch!" when a White Sox player hits a ball toward the outfield fence. Hawk often states "Sacks packed with Sox" when the bases are loaded.
When a telecast begins, Hawk states, "Sit back. Relax and strap it down" to the viewers, right before commercial break before the first pitch. Harrelson refers to the White Sox as "the good guys" (based on the team's mid-1990s slogan Good Guys Wear Black). When a White Sox player hits a ball which appears to be heading foul, Harrelson often states "Stay fair!". Hawk will state "Dadgummit" when a ball that looks to be a home run is caught short of the wall or in general when a play does not go the White Sox's way. When a hitter hits a long foul ball that would have been a home run if it were fair, Hawk will say "right size, wrong shape." If a White Sox hitter makes good contact, but the ball is hit where a fielder can make the out, Hawk says, "That's a hang with-em." For a time, Hawk often stated "Hell yes!" after an advantageous event for the White Sox. While he insists that exclaiming "Hell yes!" is not contrived and is a product of his devotion to the White Sox, it has generated some controversy.
He is also known for shouting out "Mercy!" after a great defensive play is executed by a player or players and sometimes, when it is an exceptionally great play, or the play does not go the White Sox's way, he will also exclaim "You gotta be...bleeping me!" When a batter swings and misses he will proclaim, "Big hack, no contact." Harrelson refers to a routine flyball as a "can of corn." Hawk also calls bloop hits that land between fielders, "duck snorts." He refers to a two-hop infield ground ball as a "chopper-two-hopper." He calls a hard-hit ground ball that takes a favorable bounce for the fielder a "Bolingbrook Bounce." He refers to any play with a broken bat as a "Matt Abbatacola." Matt Abbatacola is a local sports radio show host and producer for AM 670 TheScore, which carries the White Sox radio broadcasts. The two met during spring training a few years ago, and Hawk decided to use his name during broken bat plays because of the distinctiveness and sound of his name. When a White Sox rally starts, Hawk Harrelson will often enthusiastically say, "Don't stop now boys." In July 2010, GQ named Harrelson the worst announcer in baseball. He has stated publicly that he wants to die in the booth during a game and that he will never retire.
Though Harrelson has been criticized for his repeated use of catch phrases and hometown allegiances, his popularity with White Sox fans is demonstrable. Harrelson was nominated for the 2007 Ford C. Frick award (won by Royals announcer Denny Matthews), and his presence in the field of nominees for that award was due to the support of fans, who placed him in nomination (along with Cincinnati Reds announcer Joe Nuxhall and San Francisco/Oakland announcer Bill King) via an online vote.
Hawk is also well known for his strong on-air criticisms of umpires. Harrelson appears to have developed a dislike of umpire Joe West, who "in the past few years, has had some problems with the White Sox." West had started a game the night before, but called it due to rain after about a half inning of play. In a game earlier that year, West had ejected Ozzie Guillén and Mark Buehrle for two separate balks in the same game. Hawk said on a broadcast in 2015,"The first rule of baseball is catch the baseball and the second rule is don't mess with Joe West."
Following an on-air outburst about umpire Mark Wegner during a game on May 30, 2012, Harrelson received a reprimand from MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Harrelson's comments followed Wegner's ejection of White Sox rookie pitcher José Quintana for throwing a pitch behind Ben Zobrist. After White Sox manager Robin Ventura's ejection for arguing the call, Harrelson commented: "I'll tell you what, they have got to start making guys be accountable. That is totally absurd. Here's an umpire in the American League that knows nothing about the game of baseball. They have got to do something about this. They have got some guys in this league that have no business umpiring. They have no business umpiring because they don't know what the game of baseball is about." Although Harrelson said that such a tirade would not happen again, later in the same season, he lashed out at umpire Lance Barrett following the ejections of A. J. Pierzynski and Robin Ventura. Harrelson stated that "Lance Barrett has just stunk the joint up is all he's done. That's all he's done." He also claimed that "Everything that (Mariners pitcher) Blake Beavan has thrown up there that (catcher Miguel) Olivo has caught has been a strike. If he caught it, it was a strike. He's got two different strike zones. He's got a two-foot for Beavan, and he's got a 10-inch for the White Sox. What does that tell you?"
Harrelson's emotive and particularly distinctive call of Mark Buehrle's perfect game on July 23, 2009 was also notable. As Buehrle exited the field after the eighth inning, he exclaimed, "Call your sons! Call your daughters! Call your friends! Call your neighbors! Mark Buehrle has a perfect game going into the ninth!" Also, as the final ground ball of the game rolled towards the White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramírez, Harrelson called out "Alexei?!" (Harrelson often refers to the White Sox players by their first names.) As Ramirez completed the throw to the first baseman Josh Fields, Harrelson shouted "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! History!"
Though some did not like Harrelson's lack of verbosity and obvious hometown boosterism at the concluding moment of the game, others felt the outburst of emotion captured exactly what they were feeling as the perfect game was sealed. A Chicago Tribune columnist, Phil Rosenthal, arguing that each perfect game call is "memorable in its own way", made an explicit comparison of Harrelson's call to Vin Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's perfect game.
Harrelson had a 30-minute special on CSN Chicago,Put it on The Board which aired on Monday, June 7, 2010 celebrating his 25 years as a Chicago White Sox broadcaster with memorable footage, memorable quotes and an interview with CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien. Ken said during the interview, "I hope to be broadcasting for the White Sox until I die." He joked and said how he was going to die: in the White Sox broadcasting booth with his last words, "You can put it on the booooard... (dies without finishing)" Harrelson was honored with "Hawk Harrelson Night" by the Chicago White Sox for 25 years of broadcasting that was on Tuesday, June 8, 2010 vs. Detroit Tigers. The White Sox had a T-shirt giveaway for Harrelson for the first 10,000 fans that came to the game. The T-shirt has the White Sox logo on the front and in big letters on the back "Hawkism" with his famous catch phrases on the back. Harrelson also threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén. Hawk fell silent after the Tigers scored 6 runs in the 7th inning leading to a 7-2 Tigers victory, ruining "Hawk Harrelson Night."
As a man long-known for creating nicknames, his own nickname "Hawk" originated during his early playing days. Teammates began calling him "Hawk" due to his curvy, pointy nose. Harrelson coined many nicknames for popular Sox players, including "Black Jack" McDowell, Carlos "El Caballo" Lee, Lance "One Dog" Johnson, Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas, Craig "Little Hurt" Grebeck, "The Deacon" Warren Newson, "Big Bad" Bobby Jenks, "The Silent Assassin" Javier Vázquez, Herbert "the Milkman" Perry, Jake "The Jake-Meister" Peavy, Dayán "The Tank" Viciedo, Willie "Peapod" Harris, Paul "The Professor" Konerko and Magglio "Maggs" Ordóñez, along with fan favorite "Big Dick" Richard Dotson. During a broadcast, Harrelson attempted to nickname partner Darrin Jackson "The Squirrel" because of the quantity of peanuts his partner ate, to which Jackson replied, "No." He calls his current partner Steve Stone "Stone Pony." It is unclear if that nickname is a reference to the popular music venue or the Linda Ronstadt band of the same name. Recently, he began calling White Sox slugger Adam Dunn "Biggin". "Biggin" is a Southern slang term for large people, which reflects Hawk's Deep South roots. Dunn is 6'6" and 285 pounds. More recently, Harrelson has been referring to José Abreu as El Cañon or "The Cannon." Not a nickname, but during the time when Greg Norton played for the Chicago White Sox between 1996 and 2000 Harrelson would add the line "Norton, You're The Greatest" after "You can put it on the board! Yes! Yes!" when Norton hit a homerun. This was a mashup of two references from the sitcom The Honeymooners: one character was named Edward "Ed" Lillywhite Norton, and another character, Ralph Kramden, would say to his wife, Alice, "Baby, you're the greatest."
An informal study by one baseball columnist, based on the number of home-team "biased" comments throughout the course of a game, concluded that Harrelson was by a wide margin the broadcaster who openly rooted for his team the most often. He embraced the results, responding, "That's the biggest compliment you could give me, to call me the biggest homer in baseball."
While he was still in high school, Harrelson met his first wife, Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Pacifici, whom he would marry that year. The marriage produced four children (Patricia, Michael, Richard, and John), and three grandchildren (Nikole, Ryan and Kiefer). Harrelson filed for divorce from Betty on June 28, 1971.
In 1970, Harrelson was part-owner of a $2 million waterfront nightclub in East Boston called the 1800 Club. A three-quarter sized replica of Donald McKay's clipper ship Flying Cloud was docked next to the club and was used as a floating cocktail lounge. The location offered superb views of Boston Harbor and the downtown skyline. The complex was severely damaged by fire on January 20, 1971, and never re-opened.
After retiring from baseball, Harrelson competed in the 1972 British Open. He missed the cut by 1 stroke, shooting +11.
On September 13, 1973, Harrelson married Aris Harritos. They have two children, daughter Krista and son Casey, as well as two grandchildren, Nico and Alexander. Harrelson's son Casey played in the White Sox minor league system in 1999. The family resides in Orlando, Florida
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- White, Laura. "Harrelson's Life Style Changed; Laura Finds 'The Hawk' Still a Rare Bird." Boston Herald American, September 7, 1973.
- At home with The Hawk
- The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Harvest Books (February 15, 1999) ISBN 978-0-15-600580-7
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