Ken Harrelson named Frick Award winner
By Scott Merkin
December 11, 2019
SAN DIEGO -- For a brief, rare moment, Ken "Hawk" Harrelson was speechless.
That scenario played out Wednesday morning when the iconic White Sox broadcaster received a call from Tim Mead, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, to announce his selection as the 2020 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award. The award is presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
"Oh, wow," said Harrelson upon receiving the call. "I really appreciate it, but I also, I don't know, I've never felt like this. I don't know what to say except thank you.
"I was speechless," added Harrelson later on his conference call with Chicago media. "I still haven't sorted it out yet."
Harrelson will be recognized during the Hall of Fame awards presentation on Saturday, July 25, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2020. Harrelson becomes the 44th winner of the Frick Award, as he earned the highest point total in a vote conducted by the Hall of Fame's 15-member Frick Award Committee.
The final ballot featured broadcasters whose main contributions were realized as team announcers, identified as the Current Major League Markets ballot. The eight finalists were: Joe Castiglione, Jacques Doucet, Tom Hamilton, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin, Mike Shannon, Dewayne Staats and Harrelson.
"Anybody on that list you had deserved to be there," Harrelson said.
"It's really exciting," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told media Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. "This is something that should have happened a long time ago. But at the end, it worked out, so it was worth waiting for."
"That's fantastic. I love Hawk," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "Listen, he's a staple in Chicago. He's a staple on the South Side. He certainly made White Sox baseball extremely unique. All of his Hawkisms he created. We love him. We are so happy for him. Well deserved."
There might be people who love the White Sox as much as Harrelson, but none love them more, to take a quote from Harrelson himself. He handed nicknames out to players such as Frank Thomas (The Big Hurt), Carlos Lee (El Caballo), Craig Grebeck (The Little Hurt) and Lance Johnson (One Dog), to name a very few.
Those nicknames went with Harrelson's catchphrases, many of which became part of people's everyday vernacular. It's not just in baseball environs where fans will yell out "Mercy," "You can put it on the board ... yes!" and "He hurt it." And quite a few might turn to "I wish I could cuss" on the rare bad days, a line Harrelson invoked when the White Sox fell short of expectations on the field.
Reinsdorf knows Harrelson is a one-of-a-kind character, but he was so much more than someone simply coming up with catchphrases. He knew the game inside and out, having played from 1963-71, and informed the fans as a broadcaster.
"He's flamboyant on the air, but most entertainers are. They are different in private than they are when on stage. He was," Reinsdorf said. "He's just a solid guy, a family guy. The public certainly has no idea how connected he is to his family and how much he cares for his grandchildren. He's just a super solid guy, but that's not why he gets this award. He got this award because he's a great broadcaster."
"Just a great baseball man, what he's meant to the game. What he's meant to the White Sox organization. Very well-deserved," said White Sox special assistant to the general manager Jim Thome, a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee who also spoke on Harrelson's honor Wednesday. "It will be a fun day to hear his speech, watch what he's going to wear and just because he's so unique and he deserves this so much. Our whole family, our organization, is just so happy to be able to speak on this because he's just a wonderful man."
A.J. Pierzynski, the catcher on the 2005 World Series champion White Sox and a good friend who lives near Harrelson, was among those at his Florida home when Harrelson received the news. Harrelson quipped that Pierzynski was going to handle his speech, but added Jeff Snook, the writer of his book, will come up and give some assistance.
That speech ultimately is going to be all Harrelson flair, a trademark of his now Hall of Fame career, from his call of Mark Buehrle's 2009 perfect game to his call of Thome's 500th home run to even his occasional critique of the umpires.
"Knowing Hawk and how passionate he is, you'll see him take moments where I think it's all going to sink in," Thome said. "And it's a special day. It's something that his family will never forget, and the best thing is he'll get to share this now with his family."