By Luke Stanczyk
On Wednesday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the winner of the Ford. C Frick Award, which has been awarded annually to a broadcaster who has made what it characterizes as “major contributions to baseball.” After stepping away from the booth after the 2018 season, Ken “Hawk” Harrelson was named the 2019 award winner, thus giving him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Regardless of what your level of love or hatred is with The Hawk, there no doubting he fits the “major contributions to baseball” qualifications for the honor. Those signature home run calls you hear all across the game today from several broadcasters? Hawk’s “You Can Put it on the Board…Yes!” was one of the first and is one of the most recognizable among baseball broadcasters. Across five decades in baseball, four of which were in Chicago, Hawk took the knowledge of an All-Star playing career and meshed it with the passion of the most devoted fan of the team. No matter what side of the fence you fall on, he was, undoubtedly, an entertaining listen.
The last sentence is the most important. We watch sports to be entertained, and a broadcast team is a part of that entertaining for a sports fan. Through the good times and the bad times as a Sox fan, Hawk was right there with you. When Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game, Hawk was just as excited as you were. When the Sox blew a game in Cleveland for what felt like the 900th time, Hawk was just as mad as you were. Listening to Hawk call a big moment was just as memorable as some of the games themselves. That in of itself is a testament to how much of a lasting impression Hawk left in the booth. He embodied the emotions of his team’s fans and wore them on his sleeve in a way we probably won’t see another broadcast do consistently for a long time.
Was he a homer? Sure. Did he get in the umpires a bit much at times? Of course. But throughout that, he simply said what any White Sox fan on their couch or in the stadium was thinking at the time. As the main spokesperson for a team on a daily basis, that is OK for a hometown play-by-play man to do in my book. It may not have been every fan’s cup of tea, but it was for lots of baseball enthusiasts.
So, sit back, relax and strap it down Mr. Harrelson. You earned this trip to the Hall. For your sake, I hope they put your bust someone near Carl Yaztremski’s!