CHICAGO — He gone. Well, sort of.
Longtime Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson worked his final game Sunday, closing out a colorful TV career after three-plus decades in the booth. The White Sox paid tribute to Harrelson with a pregame video featuring a group of fans ticking off his long list of notable sayings and expressing their gratitude for his contributions to their favorite baseball team.
Asked what he will miss the most, Harrelson responded: "The friendships. That’s what life’s about to me, family and memories."
The 77-year-old Harrelson, who also played in the majors for nine seasons with four teams and served as Chicago’s general manager for a short time, will be a team ambassador for the 2019 season. He isn’t sure about his future plans beyond that job, and it sounds as if he is still getting used to the idea of a more relaxed lifestyle.
"Last week was the first time that popped in my mind, and I told my wife, ’Honey, this retirement issue might be overrated,’" Harrelson said before the White Sox closed out their season series against the crosstown Cubs. "All I’ve been doing is watching ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ and turning a lot of Smirnoff into urine."
Harrelson began his broadcasting career with the Red Sox in 1975. He moved to Chicago in 1982, partnering with Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale. After stints as the White Sox GM and broadcast work with the Yankees and NBC, he returned to the White Sox booth in 1990.
Harrelson is known for his unabashed love of the White Sox and several common phrases that have become part of the vernacular on the South Side of Chicago. There is "You Can Put It On the Board, Yes!" for White Sox home runs, and "He Gone" after a White Sox pitcher gets a strikeout. "Mercy" also is used frequently.
"I get a lot of letters from college aspirants who want to get into broadcasting. ‘Any advice, Hawk, you can give us?’ Yes, be yourself," Harrelson said. "Curt Gowdy and Howard Cosell both told me exactly the same thing: Don’t try to please everybody because you can’t. They said the guys that try to please everyone really don’t last."
Harrelson made his major league debut with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963 and also played for the Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, finishing with a .239 batting average, 131 homers and 421 RBIs. He had his best season with Boston in 1968, when he had 35 homers and a major league-best 109 RBIs.
He retired after the 1971 season and played professional golf for a short time before he got into broadcasting. He played in the 1972 British Open.
"At one point I wanted to die in the booth: ’Here’s (Paul) Konerko at the plate. Here’s the pitch, bam, that ball hit deep, way back, you can put it on the board ... and that would be it," said Harrelson, who worked mostly Sunday home games this season. "I want to be with the White Sox as long as I live."