A quiet end to the Hawk Harrelson era

The final broadcast comes to a quiet close, partially because of limitations that were evident during the farewell tour

When I started writing a weekly White Sox column for The Athletic this season, Hawk Harrelson’s farewell season was the one specific request for my beat.

As you might imagine, it’s tough to write about somebody who frequently repeats himself without re-tilling the same soil.

Also, few of the features accompanying Hawk’s last year — his second “as told to” autobiography, his second “as told to” documentary, the interviews, the guest spots — helped paint a more complete picture of a person in the present day. Sure, we learned some new details about his upbringing, and we’re now well aware that he detests social activism, but there still wasn’t much of a three-dimensional picture.

When he spent the majority of his Hawk Day speech recapping how the White Sox did during his time in the booth, I started doubting he had much else. His pregame comment about watching “‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ and turning a lot of Smirnoff into urine” might have been funny if he hadn’t told Yaz the same thing back in May. Without a more fulfilling answer four months later, it was all kinda unhealthy.

That lack of balance was more or less the subject of today’s column for The Athletic. Hawk’s final broadcast hinged on Steve Stone’s rather simple question with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, and it never recovered.

Harrelson couldn’t summon his mojo afterward, because the on-field product was going down quietly, too.

As I mentioned in the podcast, it would’ve been nice to have a close friend like A.J. Pierzynski or Tom Paciorek in the booth to put an arm around Hawk and coach him back to words. Stone and Harrelson aren’t that close in any sense of the word. I suppose that’s another thing we learned about from Hawk’s newer book: He borderline boasted that he’d never dined with Stone in all their years of working together. Maybe they have their reasons, but without a more personally invested party in the booth, Harrelson’s last broadcast closed with 2½ innings of one coworker giving another coworker space.

It wasn’t the most satisfactory of finales, but it probably wasn’t going to get better. In fact, we’re lucky that his departure from the booth and Jason Benetti’s introduction were this graceful. If Harrelson were wired slightly differently — and maybe if he lived in Chicago — he could’ve called White Sox games into his eighties, because his style could’ve accommodated aging. He never described the rote actions you could see for yourself, so any change in reaction time wouldn’t have changed his rhythm, and he still could bring it for the big calls that delighted White Sox fans and annoyed the piss out of everybody else. Alas, a lack of curiosity, a genuine connection with Stone and exciting White Sox baseball all combined to whittle down his range.

Harrelson proclaimed for years that he wanted to die in the booth, so I’m glad he sensed a shift, and that the Sox were both proactive and delicate in transitioning from an institution. I give everybody involved a passing grade, because it was only going to be so good as long as the White Sox are so bad.

My hope is that the Hawk/Ken split-personality we’ve heard about for years is actually true. That Hawk Harrelson was a TV character merely getting phased out of a TV show. And, that Ken Harrelson is a fully formed individual who has pursuits and passions outside of the limelight when he doesn’t need the persona.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the Hawk era in Chicago. But now I’m glad it’s ovah. Hearing the same old Yaz and Kaline stories every single broadcast sure got old at the end. Enjoy your retirement, Hawk. You’ve earned it.

Lurker Laura

Agree. Hawk was great for a long time and made broadcasts fun and interesting (I’ll never forget, “The sacks are packed with Seamen” against the Mariners). But the last decade has been mostly bad. I’ll miss him for his overall legacy, but it’s been time to move on for awhile now.

Patrick Nolan

I was dying for Palka or Davidson to hit one out in the 9th inning to let him do one last call.

Greg Nix

Your writing on Hawk has been really insightful, Jim. I definitely wouldn’t have digested this final season the same way without it. Thanks for doing it.


I agree. The writing on here is top-notch. Thanks Jim, Josh and Patrick for all of your outstanding pieces throughout the year. It’s great to discuss the White Sox with such passionate fans. Keep up the great work!!

Yolmer's gatorade

The Sox need to appeal to young people too. If you didn’t grow up a Sox fan listening to Hawk, he probably sounded pretty bad these last few years. The Stone Pony is pretty old himself too. Benetti brings a younger perspective. I hate to say it, but it’ll probably be easier to attract fair weather fans with Benetti than Hawk when the Sox start winning again.

Trooper Galactus

One thing that favors Benetti is that he’s more tuned into the information age instead of being dismissive of what it offers. Younger fans are stat-hounds, and Benetti has gone to great lengths to stay current and informed on new metrics and what they mean.

Yolmer's gatorade

Yup, and Hawk would just repeat the same few cliches about sabermetrics. It was time.


Hawk bashing is getting old on this blog. I guess I have to move on. The man showed his emotions and was at a loss for words at the end and he’s being criticized for not having something to say when his silence said it all. During his emotional silence, it was obvious that he was taking in the fact that he was at the end of his career. Yet, Hawk always taught the game of baseball in every one of his broadcasts. Just this weekend, he reminded the true students of the game that if you “choke up and take a short swing to the ball with two strikes, you’ll hit the ball farther [because of the lack of bat lag].” Hawk taught everyone baseball from the booth every time I tuned in. His “homerism” was welcomed by Jerry Reinsdorf because he is the announcer on a local, home team broadcast, not a national broadcast where he would be expected to be impartial. In broadcasting the 1980 Miracle on Ice game, Al Michaels screamed, “Do you believe in miracles?” Yeah, no “homerism” there. The biggest downside we have to our upcoming glory years is that we won’t have Hawk around to broadcast. Instead, we have a “Chip Carey” sound-a-like.

Yolmer's gatorade

I don’t think any of the writers here are Hawk bashers. I mean, I don’t think most people here remember any other Sox TV play-by-play announcer. I felt a lot of sentiment watching his last clips, as I am sure other did. But if you look at it objectively, it was time to move on.