Hawk Harrelson is forever a part of the Chicago White Sox. More than that, Hawk Harrelson is forever a part of my life.
It’s a weird thing, feeling like someone you’ve never met is a part of your family. We welcome actors, athletes, politicians, and other celebrities into our lives and we connect with them in one way or another. These people become a part of us, and they create the backdrop of our lives. We share stories of them with others and build a legend around them for ourselves and for future generations. Hawk Harrelson is no different. In fact, he’s probably my best example of this strange human phenomenon.
“Kansas City Special” aka “Ducksnort”
Hawk Harrelson created the foundation of my baseball lingo. My dad taught me the basics. You know, the official terms for most everything. But, it was Hawk who painted more colorful pictures of bloop singles, and who finally took the time to explain why in the world we refer to an easy flyball as a “can of corn.” When I was really little, I always just thought it was a word I didn’t quite hear or pronounce correctly. I mean, as a young kid, I didn’t understand why that was said during baseball broadcasts. Turned out, broadcasters really were saying “can of corn,” because in at least enough grocery stores to make it a thing, cans of corn (and other veggies) were typically stored on the top shelves. Grocery clerks would knock them over with a stick and catch them on the way down. Hawk explained it on a broadcast in the late 90s, as best as I remember. Matt Vasgersian later recounted the origination on a video game, too.
Any time I say “can of corn,” or “ducksnort,” regardless of my tone and volume, I hear Hawk. If I hear the terms during a broadcast, it doesn’t matter, I still hear Hawk Harrelson’s voice. Depending on the team, the in-game situation, time of season, etc., I hear the innate disappointment and borderline disgust as well. The disgust is very real when any Royals player muscles one just over the head of a middle infielder. Spend some meal money, meat!
My inner baseball voice is comprised of numerous people: my dad, my freshman coach (shoutout to Cook), my grandpa (whose manner of speaking and pacing were similar to Hawk), and Hawk Harrelson himself.
“He looks up, you can put it on the board, yes!”
Growing up, I knew almost no other way to call a home run. From Frank Thomas to the 2005 team to Jim Thome to our current crop of sluggers, I wanted to hear those words after every homer. In the mid-2000s, I even wrote but never sent a letter to the creators of the MLB/MLB: The Show series of baseball video games to get home broadcast home run calls included in the series. When I destroyed a pitch off the bat of digital Jermaine Dye, I wanted Hawk’s voice in the background. Instead of sending the request, I simply started doing it myself. I screamed “Alexei!” when Alexei Ramirez walked-off or made a sensational play. I’m sure it annoyed my parents. And friends. And probably me at times, but I loved doing it.
This home run call was doubly as important when playing pickup baseball games. A moonshot was typically followed by an understated batflip and somebody yelling none other than Hawk Harrelson’s signature call. We imitated, but never completely duplicated the voice and the calls. But, man, we tried.
“You gotta be bleepin’ me!”
Hawk’s passion for the game and for the Chicago White Sox was unmatched. He taught me how to root for the Palehose with respect and integrity until a situation called for decency to be thrown to the wind. Then, Hawk Harrelson taught me the art of publicly dragging umpires and players for missteps, misconduct, and gross abuses of power. He walked the fine line between old-school baseball toughness and understanding that things like targeting a player’s head with a fastball was more dangerous than it was a viable solution to on-field problems. Normally, he walked that line with grace. However, the passion sometimes overtook him, and it’s probably best for all involved that he stayed confined to the booth.
I can still hear and repeat the Mark Buehrle no-hitter and perfect game final out calls. I’m almost 100% sure I know them word for word. I remember celebrating “The Catch” and hoping Hawk was healthy enough to survive the call. I can only imagine the passion, joy, and intensity he would have exhibited had he been able to call the 2005 playoff run. Juan Uribe‘s World Series-clinching throw deserved Hawk Harrelson’s call.
“This ballgame (his career, this article) is ova!”
It’s a new day. Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is no longer a broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox. It does, indeed, feel like a family member moved far away. His storied career somehow ended perfectly, despite the loss and the rebuilding status of the club. His stories will live on forever. Hawk’s ability to call each pitch and every play while simultaneously regaling us with his memories of Tony Conigliaro and stories that may very well be as much myth as truth was, in my opinion, unmatched. I have faith Jason Benetti will take up the charge and lead the Sox booth in the perfect direction, but as much as I love Benetti, it won’t quite be the same.
Goodbye, Hawk. You were the soundtrack to my summers growing up. Yours were the calls we remembered, we constantly quoted, and we loved. You helped kickstart my love for the history of the game both statistically and anecdotally. Your passion is unforgettable. You are the voice of a generation of White Sox fans, and your presence in the booth brought together multiple generations of fans through the common language of baseball.
I will miss hearing your voice, but I understand and respect that it’s time to move on. You’ve shared your soul with the best baseball fans in existence. Now, it’s time to share your knowledge, passion, and love for the game with the best people in the world: your family.
Take care, Hawk. White Sox fans will always love you, and we will always hold a special place in our hearts for you. Thank you.
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