Hawk Harrelson was signed by the Kansas City Royals in 1959, and since then he has a constant presence in baseball, as a player, a manager and a broadcaster.
Now 75, Harrelson still calls games for the Chicago White Sox, but he is clearly nearing the end. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, his final goal is to last until 2020, so he can claim to have been part of baseball for eight decades, joining Vin Scully, Dave Garcia and Don Zimmer in that distinction.
Here’s the rub: Harrelson might not be in the broadcast booth through 2020.
“I didn’t say I wanted to broadcast four more years,’’ Harrelson told the Sun-Times. “The main thing is I just want to be in baseball four more years, not necessarily broadcasting.”
Harrelson said he will do Sox broadcasts this season, “and if I decide to do some games next year … it’s up to them.’’
Harrelson, who agreed to a multiyear extension before the 2016 season, could serve the Sox into 2020 as an ambassador or similar capacity, perhaps making occasional appearances in the booth.
By 2020, “it will definitely be enough,’’ he said. “Even if it’s for one day.’’
His current sentiment about leaving the booth diverges sharply from what he told the New York Times in 2013.
Harrelson, who goes by the nickname the Hawk, said he would be calling a White Sox game against the Yankees and Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko would step to the plate against C. C. Sabathia.
“Here’s the pitch,” Harrelson, 71, said, his voice rising. “That ball hit deep, way back. Curtis Granderson looks up, you can put it on the board — ”
Before he finished his signature call, Harrelson slumped in his chair and dropped his head, feigning his perfect ending.
“I want to die in the booth,” he said. “Just like that.”
Harrelson has long been one of the most polarizing figures in baseball. If you’re a White Sox fan, you likely love his enthusiasm, his signature calls and his love of the White Sox. If you’re not a White Sox fan, there’s a strong chance you resent his unapologetic homerism and resistance to statistics.
Harrelson’s likely successor in the White Sox booth is well-regarded 33-year-old Jason Benetti, who worked home games last year. It might be time for Hawk to pass the reins.