Sox gear up for Brewers; fans' presence felt

Ken 'Hawk' Harrelson preps to receive Ford C. Frick Award this weekend

July 22nd, 2021

CHICAGO -- The best team in the National League Central by a sizable margin will be playing host to the top team in the American League Central by an even greater margin for three games this weekend in Milwaukee.

But for the White Sox, who entered Wednesday with the best record in the entire American League, it’s just another three days on their push to the ultimate championship goal. That day-by-day approach has worked wonders for this squad during the 2021 campaign.

“We know our position in the standings,” White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito told prior to Wednesday’s game with the Twins. “We are hunting wins. We want to win series. It’s going to be the same mindset going into each and every one.”

Giolito takes the mound for Friday night’s opener against Milwaukee’s Freddy Peralta. Saturday night’s contest features a pitching matchup of Corbin Burnes and Carlos Rodón, while Sunday’s finale has Lance Lynn and Brandon Woodruff on the docket.

It’s about All-Stars and Cy Young contenders. And that assessment doesn’t even include top-notch closers such as Liam Hendriks and Josh Hader or the offensive firepower on both sides. It certainly shapes up as a playoff like atmosphere or possibly even a World Series preview, but the White Sox don’t spend much time focusing on their lofty status.

“No, we just play. We just come here and play and have fun doing it. Feed off the energy in our stadium. That’s pretty much it,” Giolito said. “We have our eyes on the prize. We know what we need to do to be successful and we just have to make sure that we stay on top of our work, hold each other accountable when need be.

“Work hard, do our stuff in between, stay really confident. Fans help with that. I think it’s only going to get bigger and bigger as we get closer to the finish line.”

A new South Side attitude
The pop from the fans at Guaranteed Rate Field was at playoff-like volume when José Abreu connected for a three-run home run off Twins closer Hansel Robles in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 9-5 victory.

“That was unbelievable,” said White Sox left fielder Andrew Vaughn, who delivered the game-tying pinch-hit single in the same five-run inning. “I haven’t heard anything like it since I played in Japan and they were playing the band the whole game. That was comparable, if not better. It was loud, so loud.”

That reaction has become the norm for the intense White Sox fans who have been waiting for this team to arrive since the beginning of the rebuild in the offseason of 2016. Giolito described the atmosphere as “electric” during the weekend series victory over Houston, and with Milwaukee only 92 miles from Chicago, Giolito expects great support this weekend at Miller Park.

“A little extra excitement is always welcomed,” Giolito said. “Sox fans have been making trips all over the place. In Baltimore, we had a bunch of people cheering for us. So the fans have been fantastic. I’m sure [with] the close proximity there will be even more [at the games], which is great.

“Even comparing it to '19 and '18 and '17, it’s a completely different atmosphere, completely different. That’s something we’ve really been enjoying. They have been awesome. They are knowledgeable and know about the game and they are into the game.”

A salute to Hawk Harrelson
Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson, the iconic White Sox television play-by-play voice and colorful franchise presence for more than three decades, will be recognized at the Baseball Hall of Fame awards presentation Saturday. Harrelson will be honored as the 2020 Ford C. Frick Award winner, along with Al Michaels, who is the 2021 Ford Frick winner.

The 2021 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Career Excellence Award winner, Dick Kaegel, and the 2020 BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner, Nick Cafardo, along with the 2020 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner, David Montgomery, will be honored as well. The 2020 ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harrelson was set to arrive in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Friday and meet with the Hall of Fame about his speech. He has an outline of what he wants to say, but prefers to go off the cuff.

“It’s about time,” said onetime White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who has been close to Harrelson for years. “It’s been a few years too many, I feel like. It should have happened a long time ago. But I’m happy he’s going to get to do it, and I can’t wait for his speech.”