It’s almost perfect.
The only way Ken “Hawk” Harrelson’s last broadcast could be any better is if Brian Gorman and Mark Wegner were part of the umpiring crew and Phil Garner was managing the Cubs.
But we’ll take what we can get, which in this case is the final Crosstown Showdown game of the season, giving all of Chicago the chance to hear the legendary White Sox announcer together one last time.
NBC Sports Chicago will air the game, with pregame coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. It would be interesting to know how many Cubs fans will click over from Ch. 7, even for a bit, to hear Hawk.
NBCSCH will make it worth their time. First off, reacquainting with analyst Steve Stone is always a treat (I like Jim Deshaies, but I’ll take Stoney every day of the week), and the network will have special guests stopping by throughout the game.
But the guest of honor — and master of ceremonies — is Hawk.
Though he’s a polarizing figure, even among Sox fans, he always has brought an entertainment value to his broadcasts that not a lot of announcers can. So many team broadcasts around baseball sound the same. Hawk’s call is distinctive.
People often overlook that Hawk is a very good broadcaster. They hear an opinion they find outlandish or focus on his Hawk-isms, and they tune out his broadcasting skills. He turns his call of the game into a discussion, aided by his experiences as a player. Not that a play-by-play man needs to have played the game, but it helps make Hawk’s broadcasts unique.
No one ranks players like Hawk does. Or at least few come up with the categories to rank players like he does. There are probably about as many as there are Hawk-isms. Who’s the best at hitting a pitch off his shoe tops or flipping a grounder to start a double play? Hawk could tell you. And how could you not believe him?
He takes fans on an emotional roller coaster, from boundless joy to silence (even not making a call says something). And, yes, such broadcasting can be homerish, but so what? Hawk isn’t talking to a national audience, he’s talking to Sox fans. Broadcasts with emotion are better than those without.
He’s old-school, which is good and bad. He dismisses analytics — in protest, he made up a nonsensical, nonanalytic metric that supposedly trumped them all called “TWTW,” the will to win — but his rants about retribution for hit batters are entertaining. So are his rants about umpires such as Gorman and Wegner (and Hawk was right about both; Google it).
Garner never was one of Hawk’s favorites (“Garner’s an a–hole,” he once told me). Hawk and former partner Tom Paciorek (a k a “Wimpy”) helped incite the Sox-Brewers rivalry of the 1990s, accusing the then-Brewers manager of directing his pitchers to throw at Sox hitters. There were brawls and bad feelings on both sides. How many announcers could do that?
The best part of Hawk is the Hawk-isms. They’re a part of Sox vernacular. Heck, they’ve crept into my speech. They burst out of my mouth at my son’s Little League games: Stretch! Stay fair! Where was it? They’re original, and they’re fun. And they will be spoken long after Hawk leaves the booth. How many announcers could do that, too?
Whatever you think of Hawk, there are a lot fewer broadcasters like him left. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good ones. But there aren’t a lot of unique ones. Hawk is a lot of things, but the thing he is most is unique. And in a game that tends to suppress personality, that’s what I’ll miss most about him.
4D Replay comes to NBCSCH
NBCSCH will use 4D Replay technology for the first time next week for the Sox’ game Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field and the Cubs’ game Thursday at Wrigley Field. If you watched ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby in July, you know it’s very cool.
It involves 100 4K cameras installed on the second level of Guaranteed Rate Field from first base to third base. They’ll take pictures that are woven together, allowing a play to be viewed from one side of the diamond to the other. The cameras also can zoom in without distorting the picture.
• In other NBCSCH news, anchor/reporter Siera Santos announced on Twitter that Friday is her last day at the network.
Bears-Cardinals TV announcers
After playing before a national audience in their first two games, the Bears will be shown in only 14 percent of the country on Fox (3:25 p.m. kickoff). Calling the game are play-by-play voice Dick Stockton, analyst Mark Schlereth and sideline reporter Jennifer Hale.
The game is opposite Cowboys-Seahawks, the network’s game of the week, which the rest of the country will see.