Hawk finally receives '20 Ford C. Frick Award

July 25th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The plan for Ken "Hawk" Harrelson prior to the Hall of Fame Awards presentation in Cooperstown on July 24 was to make his speech somewhat off the cuff from a general outline when he was recognized as the 2020 Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence.

Harrelson, who turns 80 on Sept. 4, was advised that a few honorees in the past had tried that method, and it didn’t work out very well. But much like everything Harrelson has done in his highly successful life, he wasn’t afraid to take a chance, and that chance stayed true to his colorful character.

In front of 23 family members, along with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, radio analyst Darrin Jackson and longtime Sox senior director of broadcasting and business development Bob Grim, Harrelson regaled Saturday’s crowd with stories of Bob Uecker, Joe Torre, Ralph Garr and Nolan Ryan during his close-to-nine-minute speech. Harrelson spoke of trying to get an autograph from Mickey Mantle as a young man in Savannah, Ga., where the Yankees once played an exhibition game, but Mantle was not in the mood to sign.

Mantle and Harrelson eventually became opponents and good friends, but Harrelson always wore him out about that moment. Mantle was a hero to a young Harrelson, but this speech was more about the heroes in life from Harrelson’s family.

“There’s one sitting right there. My beautiful wife, Aris,” said Harrelson, before Aris stood up to be recognized as she sat next to their son, Casey, and daughter, Krista.

Reinsdorf also was asked to stand by Harrelson, who called the White Sox chairman “the greatest owner in sports” via his seven championships brought to the city of Chicago.

“He created what is a family atmosphere,” said Harrelson of his 33 years with the White Sox and working with Reinsdorf across his 42-year broadcasting career. “There are so many [people] that I became really close to. I didn’t like them. I grew to love them. Every day I went to the ballpark, I tried to stop in as many as offices as I could just to say hello and let them know, 'We love you guys.'”

No 2020 awards presentation or induction ceremony took place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrelson was honored along with '21 Frick winner Al Michaels, the '21 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Career Excellence Award winner Dick Kaegel and the '20 BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner Nick Cafardo. The '20 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner, David Montgomery, was also honored. The induction ceremony honoring the Class of '20 in Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker is scheduled for Sept. 8.

At one point on Saturday, Harrelson shared a story of Uecker humorously tormenting him and Don Drysdale as they tried to do a White Sox broadcast open at County Stadium. Harrelson added that he had never seen Drysdale laugh so heartily. The mutual respect between Harrelson and Uecker was always evident.

“He’s one of the best people I’ve known in my career, whether it be in baseball or anything else. He’s always been a great friend and remains a great friend,” said Uecker, the 2003 Frick winner, speaking from Milwaukee, where the White Sox played the Brewers this weekend. “He’s a legend, not only in Chicago but in the game of baseball.”

Uecker pointed to Harrelson as a pretty fair player as well, finishing third in the 1968 American League Most Valuable Player Award voting with Boston and hitting 131 home runs over nine seasons.

“He was a guy who tried to broadcast the game like he played the game and didn’t really worry about who was offended by anything that he said,” Uecker said. “He was strictly for the White Sox, that was the bottom line.”

If being strictly for the White Sox meant being perceived as a homer, then Harrelson was fine with that depiction. He could be tough on the team as well, but there was never a doubt regarding his passion for the organization.

Harrelson’s closing comments involved a favorite toast he presented at Arnold Palmer’s 80th birthday: “When you take a man’s money, you take a man’s money. But when you take a man’s time, you take a part of his life.

“And I want to thank you all for all the parts of eight decades of your time,” said Harrelson of his illustrious career.

“It’s a great honor,” Harrelson told MLB.com earlier in the week. “I’ve received a lot of honors in my life with all the stuff I’ve done, and this will top them all.”