Ken Harrelson is polarizing.
As the voice of the Chicago White Sox for 33 years, the man they called Hawk became famous for his slogans and his penchant for cheering for the Sox more than any fan.
In December 2019, Hawk Harrelson was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award, allowing him to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
The long-time White Sox broadcaster had as many people who muted the channel when he came on as he did loving fans. In 2010, GQ named Harrelson and his partner, Steve Stone, the worst broadcast booth in Major League Baseball.
“Hawk is an unbearable homer, and at very, very least he doesn't hide it,” the GQ article reads.
The article goes on to rip on some of Harrelson’s sayings, like calling the White Sox “good guys” or yelling “Stretch! Stretch!” on long fly balls, goading them out of the park.
“Let's just say Hawk's mouth might be put to better use as the tail end of a human centipede,” it ends (yes, really).
But Harrelson is getting a plaque in the Hall of Fame, so he’s done something right.
The Ford C. Frick Award is given to a broadcaster who has made major contributions to baseball, and while the honorees are not technically Hall of Famers, they do get plaques in the broadcast wing of the museum. In 2007, Harrelson was nominated by fan vote as one of 10 nominees for the award. Kansas City Royals announcer Denny Matthews was picked as the winner.
It’s a testament to how much fans loved him. Despite the criticisms from the public, those who cheered for the White Sox would not want anyone else in the booth.
I am one of those fans. I grew up watching the White Sox and Harrelson, who broadcasted the team from well before I was born until his retirement in 2018. He was the voice of my childhood.
I have watched more White Sox baseball games than I care to count. Every game, almost without fail, Hawk was there to share it with me.
“Sit back, relax and strap it down,” he would say before each first pitch.
When I played wiffle ball with my friends or baseball in high school when I was older, I emulated Harrelson’s calls. I’d shout “He gone!” after a teammate struck out the opposing batter.
Hawk is the reason I chose to major in broadcast journalism. I’ve been in love with sports as long as I can remember and playing since I was able to walk, from soccer to tennis to baseball. Growing older, it was easy to envision myself getting a job within sports.
Listening to Harrelson call games gave me that guidance and direction. I wanted to do what he did. I wanted to watch baseball for a living, call games and bring to a new generation the same love for the sport that was instilled in me in part due to Harrelson's voice.
It wasn’t just me. Current White Sox announcer Jason Benetti, whose style is in direct contrast to Harrelson’s, but is equally lovable, tweeted when Harrelson retired that he was influenced by the longtime broadcaster.
Saturday, a year after the 2020 induction ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawk Harrelson was honored by the Hall of Fame.
You may not like him. But if the criteria to be honored is major contributions to baseball, he’s as qualified as they come.