In My Words: Reinsdorf on Hawk

September 22nd, 2018

When you get older, you're always amazed about how fast time seems to go. How things that happened years and years ago seem like yesterday. It truly seems like yesterday that I first met Ken Harrelson.

I remember so vividly when Harry Caray left, and we were looking for a whole new TV crew after the 1981 season. We narrowed it down to Don Drysdale and Hawk. We figured we only could afford one of them. Eddie Einhorn and I couldn't decide, so we stuck our necks out and hired both of them.

What I remember from meeting Hawk for the first time is that he wasn't at all like his public image. Going in, my only impression of him was of the Nehru jackets he wore as a player. I quickly realized this was a very serious guy who wanted to do a good broadcast. He was articulate, and it was obvious that he had a little bit of a flair -- which we thought would make him interesting.

Don and Hawk really got along on the air and off. They shared a lot of the same opinions. One guy was a pitcher and the other was a position player. I liked that they complemented each other.

In 1986, we made Hawk the general manager. During the course of the 1984-85 seasons, we had a lot of conversations. After having won the division in 1983, we weren't able to compete. We found our farm system was very, very weak. Drysdale and Hawk would point out to us all the things that were wrong with the system. Remember, Eddie and I were relatively new as owners. It takes you five, six years to learn this business. It was obvious what they were telling us was right, but it was a mistake to make Hawk the GM. There's an analogy I like to use. If you go to your intern, and he says you need heart surgery, you don't let him perform the surgery. You want a heart surgeon. With Ken, I made the mistake of letting the guy who diagnosed our problems try to solve them. From the standpoint of talent evaluation, he was good. He's always been good. However, he just didn't have the experience of running an organization. A general manager has to do a lot more than make trades. In retrospect, it was unfair to put him in that job.

After that season, Hawk went to New York to broadcast for the Yankees for a couple of years. Then, he contacted me and said he wanted to come back.

I didn't like homerism in the booth when I got here in 1981. With the announcers I listened to growing up -- Red Barber, Mel Allen -- you knew they wanted your team to win, but they never said, "C'mon, let's get a hit." When Drysdale and Harrelson first came here, I asked them not to be homers. And that went over like a lead balloon. So when Hawk came back, we turned him loose. That's what the market wanted.

What stands out for me is the passion in how Hawk calls a game. How hard he roots. How into the game he is. He is the ultimate fan. Hawk definitely takes losses hard. Before a game, he'll often come into my office. A lot of times, he's still living last night's game.

Hawk also knows how the game is played. I always wanted announcers to be able to teach the game. Hawk teaches you the game. Steve Stone teaches you the game. I grew up with Red Barber and Mel Allen, and they taught you the game. I got to Chicago, and there weren't any announcers who taught you the game. Harry wasn't a teacher. Hawk is great at teaching you the nuances of the game.

A lot of Hawk's phrases just kind of evolved. "Put it on the board" comes from golf. "Yes" is something that came out spontaneously the first time. I don't think he ever set out to have these phrases. Remember, Hawk is a Southern guy from Savannah, Ga.

There really are two sides to him. I don't think it is a secret. In the public, there's Hawk. In private, he's Ken. When entertainers are on, they become different people.

When he comes into my office, it's always Ken. He doesn't talk with Hawkisms. We talk about the game. We talk about family. He's just an ordinary guy. He's got family joys. He's got family problems. No matter who you are, famous or not, everyone has the same joys and the same problems.

In life, you only have a few really good friends. All Hawk wants from me is what he thinks would be good for me. There's no agenda. He only wants what would be in my best interests. I know he never would betray me, and he knows I never would betray him.

I can't imagine why Hawk hasn't won the Ford Frick Award (an honor presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum). It doesn't make any sense. Not to take anything away from the guys who have won the award, but nobody has made an impression on the public the way Hawk has. He deserves the award.

I probably won't believe Sunday will be Hawk's last telecast. It's going to take a while to sink in. There are certain things in life, when they occur, it doesn't seem possible. When Franklin Roosevelt died -- I was 9 years old -- it didn't seem possible that he wouldn't be the president anymore. You think someone like Hawk is going to be around forever, but it doesn't work that way.

I don't know how he is going to keep it together for the last broadcast. There's going to be a lot of tears. But he's still going to be around. He's going to be associated with the White Sox in an ambassador role.

The Hawk may be going away, but Ken's not going away.

As told to Ed Sherman