The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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White Sox Broadcaster Hawk Harrelson: After This Season, "He Gone"

One of the signature calls of popular Chicago White Sox television broadcast announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is “He Gone,” frequently used after an opposing batter strikes out.  But after the 2018 season, Harrelson will be the one gone, as he retires after this final season to call White Sox games.  It will cap a 34-year broadcasting career that began in 1975.

The 75-year-old Harrelson has been a favorite of Chicago area fans since 1982.  His witty, colorful broadcasting style included the use of several signature phrases and his assignment of nicknames to White Sox players.  He’s what’s called in the broadcasting industry a “homer,” a broadcaster who openly roots for his home team on air.  They are usually admonished for showing partiality to their home team during broadcasts, but Harrelson seemed to get a pass in that regard.

Nicknamed “Hawk” for his distinctive facial profile, Harrelson played nine major-league seasons with four different clubs.  His breakthrough came in his third season with the Kansas City Athletics in 1965 when he hit 23 home runs and 66 RBI.  However he was traded in mid-season in 1966 to the Washington Senators.

Kansas City re-acquired him again in 1967, but abruptly let him go less than three months later when he openly called out A’s owner Charlie Finley over the firing of manager Alvin Dark.  The Red Sox signed Harrelson for the final month of the season to replace injured Tony Conigliaro, and he helped them win the American League title in a close race with Minnesota and Detroit that wasn’t decided until the last day of the season.  Red Sox teammate Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown that season, and Harrelson jokingly took credit for Yastrzemski’s success by claiming Yaz got all the good pitches, because opposing pitchers didn’t want to face Harrelson behind him in the batting order.

The 1968 season with the Red Sox would be the best of his career.  He hit 35 home runs and led the American League with 109 RBI.  He finished third in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.  He played his final three seasons with the Cleveland Indians.  He retired from the Indians in mid-season in 1971 at age 29 and briefly pursued a professional golf career.  Harrelson is often credited with the regular use of batting gloves in baseball, with the first ones actually being re-purposed golf gloves.

Having gained popularity for hosting a half-hour TV show while playing in Cleveland, Harrelson landed his first broadcasting job with Boston in 1975.  He later signed on with the White Sox broadcast team in 1981 and served as the general manager of the team for a brief period in 1986.  It was a disastrous year in which he fired the team’s manager and assistant general manager.  He held jobs with the New York Yankees and with national baseball game broadcasts before returning to the White Sox as a broadcaster in 1990.

Over the years he has developed several signature calls, including “He gone” and “Grab some bench” when an opposing team’s batter struck out.  He used “You can put it on the board, yes!” when a White Sox player hit a home run, and he often referred to White Sox players as the “good guys.”

Of all the nicknames he came up with for White Sox players over the years perhaps the most famous ones were “Big Hurt” for White Sox slugger Frank Thomas and “Black Jack” for pitcher Jack McDowell.

Harrelson is certainly no Vince Scully, former long-time Dodgers announcer, from oratorical standpoint, but the Hawk has his own entertaining style that has made him one of the more popular announcers in the game.  The White Sox are paying tribute to Harrelson by having his long career commemorated on the cover of their 2018 baseball media guide.

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