Thursday, November 14, 2013

Something new for people to rant about; put “the Hawk” in Hall of Fame?

As if people in Chicago didn’t have enough to rant about these days – not only is the Willis Tower no longer the United States’ tallest building, there are those people who think that Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken “the Hawk” Harrelson belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The Hawk will never be a Hall of Fame GM
In fact, I think the latter concept will upset certain people more than the demise of Willis Tower as the officially-recognized tallest building on any level.

HARRELSON FIRST BEGAN his association with the White Sox in 1982. He had a few years away from the team in the late 1980s, but then came back and has been in place in the broadcast booth for the more than two decades since.

Yes, he’s a homer – as in he actually makes it clear he wants the White Sox to win.

Which ticks off that element of Chicagodom that roots for the Cubs and thinks that the White Sox aren’t entitled to have anyone root for them.

He has his share of sayings and clichés that he has developed throughout the years, but it also more than capable of going silent for batters at a time when the White Sox play so badly on the field that he seems to follow the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.”

HARRELSON IS NOT someone that people are neutral over. The people who can’t stand him really feel strongly about it.

So the idea that Harrelson is among 10 finalists for the Ford Frick Award – given each year by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to honor a baseball broadcaster for the entirety of his (or her) career – is something that will get them all worked up.

Your view if the Hawk is a fashion palate
“How dare anyone say that baseball’s absolute worst broadcaster ever be worthy of being allowed anywhere near the Hall of Fame?!?,” they will scream from the top of their voices.

Some of them are going to make the oft-used argument that getting the Frick Award is NOT the equivalent of being elected to the Hall of Fame. Harrelson isn’t a Hall of Famer, no matter what he claims!

EXCEPT THAT THE Frick Award has become a significant career achievement for those involved in broadcasting baseball. Past recipients include our city’s radio and television legends such as Bob Elson, Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray.

Does Harrelson deserve to be compared to them?

Personally, I view the fact that Harrelson is up for this honor and has had such a lengthy career as the evidence of how baseball broadcasting has changed.

We don’t have professional broadcasters any longer. Now, the broadcasters are the former ballplayers whom the ball clubs don’t view as worthy of a managerial or coaching post.

HARRELSON IS A 1960’s era ballplayer who will forevermore live off the glory of the 1967 American League champion Boston Red Sox (remember the team that won, in part, because the White Sox totally collapsed against the last-place Kansas City Athletics in the final weekend of the season)?

Just like the Cubs currently are looking at a batch of former ballplayers to replace Keith Moreland in their local broadcasts. Moreland, of course, being of the Cubs team that blew it in the playoffs in 1984.

Personally, my own attitude about Harrelson’s ability is that he may well be one of the best broadcasters in the game today – because the quality is so low. Like Mike Royko used to say that calling him the best newspaper columnist didn’t amount to much because it compared to being the “tallest midget in the circus.”

There are a lot of broadcasters doing baseball today because they were once capable of hitting .260 or fielding ground balls without bobbling too many of them.

IT’S NOT A great field of talent, so naturally Harrelson’s enthusiasm stands out.

And most important, the reality of the Ford Frick Award is that once a broadcaster gets nominated as a finalist, he tends to remain a finalist in future years until the powers-that-be determine that it’s eventually his turn to get the big prize.

It may not happen this year (which is Harrelson’s second time on the ballot), but it is likely to come someday that “Yessssssssssssss!,” the Hawk will be in the Hall. It certainly won’t be for his brief stint as a baseball general manager.

He’ll probably give one heck of an entertaining acceptance speech. And the masses who think everybody ought to be a Cubs fan will gag in disgust – probably even more so than they did eight years ago when the Sox took the World Series, long before they could ever dream of doing so.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Ken Harrelson even has his own theme music. The Val Perry Trio gave us “Don’t Walk the Hawk” back at the peak of his ’67 Red Sox popularity. And yes, it definitely is a period piece, as cheesy as anything the 1910 Fruitgum Company ever did.

No comments: