CHICAGO -- When Ken "Hawk" Harrelson is no longer on this Earth, the iconic White Sox television broadcaster already knows how his headstone should read: Here lies a man who adored his family. Here lies a man who adored his White Sox."And he gone," said a smiling Harrelson as he
CHICAGO -- When Ken "Hawk" Harrelson is no longer on this Earth, the iconic White Sox television broadcaster already knows how his headstone should read: Here lies a man who adored his family. Here lies a man who adored his White Sox.
"And he gone," said a smiling Harrelson as he talked to the media prior to Sunday's game, a 6-1 loss to the Cubs. "So that's that."
"He gone" fit into Sunday's festivities as the theme of Harrelson's last broadcast of a 42-year career and 33 years with the White Sox, even though Harrelson will stay on as a White Sox ambassador. He was joined by analyst Steve Stone, with an entertaining stop-in by A.J. Pierzynski. Harrelson's son, Casey, his daughter, Krista, his grandchildren and other family members joined him in a crowded broadcast booth at Guaranteed Rate Field during his final inning of work.
Before the bottom of ninth began, fans gave Harrelson a rousing ovation, as did a few Cubs players on the field. Harrelson was moved to tears and felt the same emotions moments later after the White Sox collectively came out of the dugout to tip their caps following the final out.
"Everybody loves him," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of the hat tips in defeat. "It was the right thing to do to stay out there and at least tip our cap to a guy who's been doing it very well for a long time."
White Sox fans paid video tribute to Harrelson on the center-field scoreboard, not to mention countless supporters throwing out their favorite moment or favorite catchphrase from his colorful career on social media. Harrelson once again pointed to Mark Buehrle's perfect game against the Rays on July 23, 2009, as his favorite individual memory in what also might be his most spine-tingling moment as an announcer.
• Sox fans quote favorite Hawkisms for farewell
Although the time is right for the 77-year-old to spend more time watching his grandkids in their sporting endeavors, Harrelson recently admitted to telling his wife, Aris, retirement isn't what it might be cracked up to be. There's only so much "Walker, Texas Ranger" Harrelson can watch, which just happens to be one of his favorite shows.
"I guess the biggest hurt I have right now is the fact [of what] I told Jason [Benetti], who is going to be sitting in my chair for a long time. He's a wonderful young man and a terrific announcer," Harrelson said. "I told him sit back, relax and strap it down because you are getting ready to go on the wildest ride you've ever been on because our club in two years is going to be a monster.
"It's going to be fun to watch and it's going to be fun because the Cubs, they are good and they are not going anywhere. So, it's going to be fun to watch these two clubs butt heads. It has the chance to be the greatest decade in Chicago baseball history."
The finality of Sunday's broadcast would set in as the day progressed, according to Harrelson. When he talked to the media 30 minutes before first pitch, his focus was on the White Sox winning and kicking the Cubs in the rear.
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There was never a time when Harrelson has been afraid to speak his mind, about the Cubs, any other opponent or even the umpires. Joe West, the crew chief of this series, has been a target of Harrelson's raw honesty in the past, but the two natives of the Orlando, Fla., area remain friends.
"Everybody thought we were mortal enemies," West said on Sunday. "That's the furthest thing from the truth. He's loyal to those people that are in his circle and you can tell that by the way he announces his games. He pulls wholeheartedly for his team. You have to respect that. He's all White Sox. And if he has to take a shot at Joe West, he'll do it even though I'm his friend."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon frequently chatted with Harrelson when Maddon managed in the American League with the Rays, and the two discussed hitting Friday before the series began. Maddon likes the fire and spice Hawk adds to the Cubs/White Sox rivalry and paid tribute to Harrelson after the Cubs' series victory. Len Kasper, the television voice of the Cubs, used a few of Harrelson's famous catchphrases in tribute during his Sunday broadcast.
Friendships mean the most to Harrelson, with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf who Harrelson describes as an older brother, at the top of that list. But in his entire career, Harrelson always was true to himself.
"Well, I get a lot of letters every year," Harrelson said. "I get close to 100 maybe from the young college aspirants who seek to become an announcer. And they ask 'Is there any advice Hawk you can give us?' I tell them, yes be yourself."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.