GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ken "Hawk" Harrelson has nothing but respect and admiration for Rich "Goose" Gossage and Johnny Bench, but he doesn't support the Hall of Famers' recent critiques of players such as Jose Bautista and Bryce Harper, who have spoken out in favor of more spontaneous celebration in baseball.In
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ken "Hawk" Harrelson has nothing but respect and admiration for Rich "Goose" Gossage and Johnny Bench, but he doesn't support the Hall of Famers' recent critiques of players such as Jose Bautista and Bryce Harper, who have spoken out in favor of more spontaneous celebration in baseball.
In fact, Harrelson agrees with Harper's point of view, if not his choice of words to express it.
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"It's not a tired game. But it's not as exciting as it was because of the way things go down," Harrelson told MLB.com during a phone conversation from his Florida home. "This could be a tremendously exciting game because of the talent of the players. Look at all the great young talent.
"I started in 1959, so I've been in this game for parts of seven decades. Guys from the past have to realize it's a different game today. These guys are better players than we were overall. They don't have better teams than we had. But they have better players, and you know the whole thing going on lately, a large part of it is because of social media.
"Society is different than when Bench and Hawk and Goose played," Harrelson continued. "I think that Bryce Harper is right. The game should be livened up a little bit. This is the way these guys are today."
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The colorful White Sox television play-by-play announcer pointed out that baseball and sports in general reflect the culture of the time. There was no SportsCenter or MLB Network, let alone gifs, memes and Twitter hashtags when they played.
Bench is the greatest catcher of all time, in Harrelson's opinion. Gossage was a great reliever, and both would be standouts in the game today. But Harrelson believes Harper and his style would have held up just as well decades ago.
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"I would have loved to have played against him. He's such a great player," said Harrelson of Harper. "I would have loved to have played against a Mike Trout. These guys would have been superstars back in my time zone when we had Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial and Duke Snider.
"Kids keep coming in and making plays and thrilling you and thrilling me. It's pretty hard to thrill me. I've been in this game for 56 years. I've seen a lot of [stuff]. I've seen a lot of great players, but they make plays that you know most of the guys in my time zone don't even think about making.
"So I think that Johnny and Goose have to realize that," Harrelson said. "What I would tell Bryce is, 'Go for it.' If you want to add some excitement to the game, I'd love it. Let's face it, we could use a little more excitement."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.