DENVER — Time flies, one season at a time in baseball, and here we are already at the All-Star break of Ken Harrelson’s final full season as the voice of the White Sox.
Enjoy him while you still hear him on a semi-regular basis, because after this season the iconic “Hawk” will ease into retirement mode.
“It’s time for the people who have listened to Hawk for all these years to understand he’s lived a phenomenally interesting life, not just calling baseball games but every aspect of it,’’ said Steve Stone, Harrelson’s broadcast partner of nine years.
“He’s been the broadcast face of the White Sox for as long as I can remember, and the fans will miss a lot of the enduring qualities he has as a broadcaster.’’
As Jason Benetti steps into a full-time work with a multiyear agreement with the team, Harrelson will return for his 34th and final year in 2018 to call 20 games, mostly Sunday home games, the Sox announced in May.
He’ll continue as a Sox ambassador in 2019, which would mark the beginning of an eighth decade in the game, a milestone he covets. He signed his first professional contract as a player in 1959.
Stone says Harrelson, who is working a road-only schedule for the second straight season, has earned the right to go out as he wants.
“It will be a schedule he’s comfortable with,’’ Stone said, “because he deserves that kind of approach to winding down what has been a wonderful White Sox career but also a wonderful life in the game of baseball.’’
Stone has but one wish for Harrelson: That he is honored with the Ford Frick Award.
“That would be a crowning glory for Hawk, and one he deserves,’’ said Stone, a nominee for the award in 2008. “Hopefully the voters will look to Hawk as a man who dedicated his whole life to baseball and bring him into a very small tent and very elite club. And I believe it’s going to happen.’’
A five-time Emmy Award winner, Harrelson was a Frick finalist in 2007, 2014 and 2016. He wants it to happen, he said, for his grandchildren.
“There are two things I want – to be part of the eight decades club, and to have that legacy of being in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,’’ Harrelson said.
“It will probably happen. It might not happen when I’m alive but as long as it happens for my grandkids. Even with all the things I’ve done in my life, nothing has thrilled me like they have.’’
Sox victories might come a close second. It’s his passion for the Sox that makes him unique, Stone said.
“He’s ecstatic when they win and he feels terrible when they lose and I think the fans feel the same way,’’ Stone said. “So many people who grew up with the Sox grew up with Hawk’s voice. They’re still going to hear it, just not as often.’’
Stone and Harrelson have had their differences but they are in a good place now, Stone said.
“There is no doubt that in years past we had some difficult times,’’ said Stone, who “didn’t always have smooth sailing” working with Harry Caray on Cubs broadcasts. It happens when two strong-willed people are on the same team, Stone said.
This is Harrelson’s 28th straight season as the TV voice of the Sox and his 31st overall. He will not go out covering a winner with the Sox in rebuild mode.
“I’d like to see him around when this White Sox team becomes really good,’’ Stone said. “And I don’t think there are many things Hawk happier than when the White Sox have a good team and are winning.
“It’s part of life. Eventually the older folks give way and the younger folks take over. Vin Scully is not broadcasting any more. It was hard to envision Dodger baseball without Vin Scully but you know, Opening Day this year the Dodgers played a game. Things go on after immortals leave.’’