By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — After hearing that White Sox television play-by-play man Ken “Hawk” Harrelson will be putting down the microphone for good after the 2018 season, nearly 60 years of contributions to the game begin to come in full focus.
This baseball man for all seasons has done it all in the sport he loves the best.
“I have never worked a day in my life,” Harrelson told me on numerous occasions.
What the 75-year-old Harrelson meant is that being in baseball has been a gift to him all of these years.
Harrelson signed his first professional contract in 1959 with the Kansas City A’s and broke into the big leagues in 1963 at the age of 21. He played nine seasons and 900 games along the way, popularizing the batting glove during his playing career.
Harrelson went to the broadcast booth in 1975, spent one season as White Sox general manager in 1986 and became the team’s play-by-play voice in 1990, a position in which he has since remained.
On Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, Harrelson informed chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox organization that 2018 would be his last season. He will call 20 games next season, including Sunday home contests and other select games.
“I never had really considered myself anything but a baseball man,” Harrelson said. “I am the luckiest guy in the world to have been able to make this my life’s work.”
That Harrelson has more than one persona is real but not easy to detect.
Ever passionate for baseball and the White Sox, Harrelson spoke of those long drives from Chicago to his home near South Bend, Indiana, which were often tough after a loss. But retirement means more time with his family, especially his young grandchildren.
“There is the Hawk who is opinionated, brash, passionate as heck about his White Sox “Harrelson said. “Then we have Kenneth. He is pretty reserved and introspective. He is the family guy and grandpa.”
When looking at Harrelson’s career, you have to wonder why he hasn’t been selected for inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcast wing in Cooperstown, New York. The Ford C. Frick Award is given out to modern era broadcasters every three years. For some unknown reason, Harrelson hasn’t been given his due. This, of course, is a joke.
During his heyday, Harrelson was and still remains one of the most polarizing and provocative broadcasters in baseball history.
Many have loved the passion and home-team prodding that Harrelson brings in his broadcasts. Others dislike Harrelson for the very same reasons. The truth is there’s no in between when it comes to this straight-from-the-hip shooter.
“Hawk has left a lasting imprint on the game of baseball across what will be an amazing career in the game,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. “His passion for the White Sox and for the game of baseball is apparent in every telecast he does.”
As Reinsdorf further pointed out, the Hawkisms make him unique in a cookie-cutter world of similar baseball voices these days.
His catch phrases are synonymous with the White Sox. “You can put it on the board, yes” remains a fixture around the game, as it will well beyond his retirement.
You may love Harrelson, you may hate him. This much is certain: He was never boring.
“I still love it,” he said while tearing up. “I do want to spend more time with the grandkids. I talked it over with my wife. This has been the greatest ride of my life. It has been a lot of fun. I will remember this forever.”
After calling Reinsdorf the greatest owner in sports and thanking the White Sox fans, Harrelson made his exit into the bowels of the ballpark.
After 2018, Harrelson will be gone but never forgotten. You can put that on the board — yes!
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.