Ask Ken Harrelson what going into the Hall of Fame on Saturday means to him, and he does not hesitate.
“I’m really happy that my grandkids will be able to enjoy it,” said Harrelson, who will be surrounded by his three grandsons and 20 other family members at Cooperstown this weekend. The group will tour the Hall and make an extended weekend vacation out of Harrelson’s big day.
Harrelson will be honored by the Hall as the 2020 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to one broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.”
For the broadcaster of 42 years, 33 of them in the White Sox’ booth, the joy will be in sharing the moment with family, he said. And reflecting on relationships built over the years with his Sox family.
Harrelson was named the Frick winner in December 2019, but Hall of Fame festivities were postponed last summer because of the coronavirus.
He will have his day, but it won’t be his day in the sun. While the enshrinements of Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller were delayed until Sept. 8 in a ceremony taking place outdoors, an indoor, television-only event (11 a.m. Sunday, MLB Network) will honor Harrelson and fellow Frick Award inductee Al Michaels. Also to be honored: Baseball Writers’ Association of America Career Excellence Award winners Dick Kaegel and the late Nick Cafardo and Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner David Montgomery.
Harrelson’s speech promises to entertain, complete with multiple digs at broadcaster Bob Uecker.
“I’m going to wear his a— out,” he said.
In a more sentimental vein, the man known as “Hawk” will reflect on relationships made in baseball that are more meaningful to him at 79 than they’ve ever been.
“It’s not just the calling of the games that I miss; it’s the people,” Harrelson said in a conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times this week, listing off names of people in the Sox’ organization. “I’m going to talk about that Saturday — we got to be very close over the years. It’s not a situation that I like those people; I love those people. And I miss them.”
And the players.
“I had the Mark Buehrles, the ‘Big Hurt’ [Frank Thomas, whom he famously nicknamed], the Robin Venturas and Ozzie [Guillen] and all those people, as well. With me, it was more than just a job. I love the game — the greatest game we’ve ever seen, a game of heroes and memories and a generational game.”
Harrelson cherishes moments when a grandson sits on his lap and says, “Papa, did you play against Mickey Mantle?” He loves answering yes. And then mentioning he also played against Willie Mays and Stan Musial and hit against Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and his former broadcast partner Don Drysdale.
The 44th winner of the Frick Award, Harrelson, who left the booth after the 2018 season, joins former Sox broadcasters Jack Brickhouse (1983), Harry Caray (1989), Bob Elson (1979) and Milo Hamilton (1992) in the Hall.
Before calling games for the Sox he broadcast games for the Red Sox and Yankees. “He gone!’’ “Mercy!” and “You can put it on the board, yes!” are just a few of the numerous catchphrases he coined with the Sox.
He misses it.
“You don’t do something for 42 years and not miss it,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the grandkids, I’d go crazy. I really would. All three of our grandsons, Nico, Alexander and Hank, we’re very close. Let’s put it that way.”
They’ll all be there Saturday to make Harrelson’s day.