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Ken Harrelson
First baseman/Outfielder
Born: September 4, 1941 (1941-09-04) (age 68)
Woodruff, South Carolina
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
June 9, 1963 for the Kansas City Athletics
Last MLB appearance
June 20, 1971 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Batting average     .239
Home runs     131
RBI     421
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Kenneth Smith Yox Harrelson (born September 4, 1941 in Woodruff, South Carolina), nicknamed "The Hawk" due to his distinctive profile, is a former first baseman and outfielder in Major League Baseball. He currently serves as a television broadcast announcer for the Chicago White Sox.

Contents

Early life

Ken Harrelson and his family moved from Woodruff 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 Kentucky. His own parents divorced when he was eight[1]

He played golf, baseball, football and basketball at Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Georgia.

Playing career

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 a close 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 to briefly host a half-hour program entitled, "The Hawk's Nest" on local CBS affiliate, WJW-TV.

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 Indian rookie Chris Chambliss took control of the first base position in 1971, Harrelson retired midseason to pursue a professional golf career.

General manager and broadcaster

Harrelson (left) with Darrin Jackson during a broadcast.

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.[2] 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.[citation needed]

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. Many people questioned his work ethic as a GM because he was often found on the golf course instead of in the office. In addition, others questioned his personnel decisions. During that one season, Harrelson fired field manager Tony LaRussa (who was soon hired by the Oakland Athletics, whom he led to three consecutive AL pennants) 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 Jose DeLeon.

During the 1987–1988 season he was the play-by-play man for New York Yankees games on SportsChannel New York.[2]

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.[2]

Since 1990, he has served as the main play-by-play announcer for the White Sox television broadcasts teaming up with Tom "Wimpy" Paciorek until 2000 and "DJ" Darrin Jackson from 2000 - 2008. In 2009 former Chicago Cubs color analyst Steve Stone, who broadcasted with the late 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.[3] Harrelson has become known as one of the quintessential "homer" (home-town enthusiast) broadcasters. He is known for his often used catchphrases such as, "He gone!", "Grab some bench!" after a strikeout of an opposing player, "Sacks packed with Sox," when the bases are loaded, and referring to the White Sox as "the good guys" (based on the team's mid-90's slogan Good Guys Wear Black), or simply "Hell Yes!" whenever he gets excited for some reason. 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.[4]

Though unpopular with some as a broadcaster due to his repeated use of catchphrases and obvious hometown allegiances, his popularity with the 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 announcer Joe Nuxhall and San Francisco/Oakland announcer Bill King) via an online vote.[5]

His catch phrases have evolved over the years. For instance, he used to say "grab some bench" when a player struck out, but has for the most part stopped. There are several themes he discusses often: a player's ability being linked to having strong hands, the fact that pitchers cannot throw inside like they used to because of warnings from umpires, his time with the Red Sox in the late 60s, pitch counts limiting pitchers' ability to grow and the fact that today's young players often come to the big leagues without yet "learning the game." He is known for being very biased with his in-game calls, as noted by the tone and inflection of his voice, as well as his vocabulary in describing efforts by the White Sox as compared to similar efforts by the opposing team. His home run call is also popular, which for the White Sox is an enthusiastic cry while the ball is in flight, "He looks up... You can put it on the booooard... YES!" Hawk also uses the term "GASSSSS!!!" when he describes a crisp fastball. When an opponent homers, Harrelson will simply state, matter-of-factly, "Put it on the board," or simply state the score. The expression "He gone!" connects with the similar CB-radio expression, which Harrelson cited directly when wrapping up the Sox victory parade in 2005: "We gone!" He is also notable for his phrase at the end of a White Sox game: "This game...is ovah!"

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 Ramirez, 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!"[6] Though many did not like Harrelson's lack of verbosity and obvious hometown boosterism at the concluding moment of the game[7], others felt the outburst of emotion captured exactly what they were feeling as the perfect game was sealed.[8] 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.[9] A Sports Illustrated blog focused on the emotionality of the call, likening it to Meg Ryan's orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally.[10]

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 Vazquez, Alexei "The Cuban Missile" Ramirez, Herbert "the Milkman" Perry, 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 amount of peanuts his partner ate, to which Jackson replied, "No."

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.

Personal life

While he was still in high school, Harrelson met his first wife, Betty Ann Pacifici, whom he would marry that year. The marriage produced four children: daughter, Patricia and sons, Michael, Richard and John. He also has three grandchildren from the first marriage: Nikole, Ryan and Kiefer.

In 1973, Harrelson married Aris; they have two children, daughter Krista and son Casey, and two grandchildren, Nico and Alexander. His son Casey, who played in the White Sox minor league system in 1999, is currently a professional golfer. The family resides in Orlando, Fla.

Harrelson resides in Granger, Indiana during the MLB Season.

See also

References

  • The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Harvest Books (February 15, 1999) ISBN 978-0156005807

External links

Preceded by
Carl Yastrzemski
American League RBI Champion
1968
Succeeded by
Harmon Killebrew
Preceded by
Dean Chance
AL Comeback Player of the Year
1968
Succeeded by
Tony Conigliaro
Preceded by
Roland Hemond
Chicago White Sox General Manager
1985
Succeeded by
Larry Himes
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