SAN DIEGO — Broadcaster Ken Harrelson will go into the Hall of Fame because he’s a colorful character whose expressions have become household sayings.
He’ll go as a face of the White Sox franchise, a former player whose legendary storytelling and homerism went hand in hand on Sox broadcasts for 33 years.
To his very last game, the outcome was all that mattered to Harrelson, and it was that passion that made a “Hawk” broadcast the unique brush with baseball, fandom and passion that it was.
Harrelson was an entertainer, but he also knew what he was talking about, Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said.
“It would take a couple of pages to describe Hawk,” Reinsdorf said Wednesday during baseball’s Winter Meetings. “Everybody has been talking about his personality and the nicknames he came up with and ‘Put it on the board.’ Everybody is overlooking the fact that he actually taught the game of baseball. If you watched the White Sox telecast and you listened to Hawk, you learned something about the game itself.”
The baseball world learned Wednesday that Harrelson, after being nominated a fourth time, was selected by a 15-member panel as the 2020 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Harrelson was a 2007, 2014 and 2017 finalist. He retired after the 2018 season after 40 years of broadcast experience with the White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees during a baseball career spanning parts of eight decades.
He was at his home in Florida with family and friends, including former Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, when he got the phone call. Harrelson thanked his wife, Aris, for her support and love and called the honor “humbling” considering “the impressive list of past recipients, including all of the voices who educated and entertained generations of Chicago fans over the years.”
He thanked the organization and Sox fans.
“In the end, broadcasting has always been about having a conversation with Sox fans, and I need to thank them from the bottom of my heart for allowing me into their homes each night to talk about the team and the sport we all love,” he said.
Harrelson was one of eight finalists, along with Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes, Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Bill King, Mike Krukow, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats.
Hawk's call from the Hall!— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) December 11, 2019
Ken Harrelson is the 2020 Ford C. Frick Award winner! pic.twitter.com/J3i1nuzn3P
Congratulations came quickly after the announcement Wednesday morning.
“Hawk is truly a legend,” Sox great Paul Konerko said.
“I will always appreciate Hawk coining ‘The Big Hurt’ nickname because it was a huge part of who I was as a ballplayer,” Hall of Famer Frank Thomas said.
“I can’t think of anyone who is more deserving of this honor,” Pierzynski said. “He became synonymous with White Sox baseball. . . . Hawk was like a father to me and guys like Paulie and [Mark] Buehrle. This is a long overdue honor and a great day for Hawk, his family and everyone associated with White Sox baseball. Put that on the board, yes!”
“Hawk changed the language of the game,” said Steve Stone, his last partner in the booth.
“Forever, Hawk will be with the best of the best in Cooperstown, where he and his creativity and passion belong,” said Jason Benetti, who grew up listening to Harrelson as a Sox fan and now sits in Harrelson’s broadcast chair. “He’s touched all of us and changed the way so many speak about the game in Chicago and beyond. He deserves this deeply.”
Harrelson will be recognized during the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation on July 25, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2020. Harrelson is the fifth former Sox broadcaster to receive the award, joining Jack Brickhouse (1983), Harry Caray (1989), Bob Elson (1979) and Milo Hamilton (1992).
“With his nicknames and catchphrases, Hawk changed the way people talk about baseball and even how they describe day-to-day life,” Reinsdorf said. “Hawk deservedly joins an impressive list of great Chicago baseball announcers who have been honored by the Hall of Fame with the Frick Award.”