The personality clash of a Hawk Harrelson-Steve Stone announcing booth is rather inherent in its design, but the past season displayed more naked conflict than the intended complementing effect. A Chicago Magazine profile revealed their lack of communication outside the actual broadcast, which intensified the focus on the setup where the two sat as far away from one another as the confines would allow, and the lapses in interaction that seemed a bit too long for two guys paid to talk to each other about baseball.
It was enough to make it not a surprise when Stone sounded not very thrilled to come back to the booth in September after a long season, and a bit of one when he changed his tune.
A lot of the formulas present in Chicago sports broadcasting are allowed to just persist, warts intact. But Chairman Reinsdorf apparently has no love for discord among his friends, and arranged a sit-down meeting between Hawk and Stone, along with VP of Marketing Brooks Boyer and senior director of business development and broadcasting Bob Grim. Hawk, speaking on WMVP-AM 1000, expressed satisfaction with how it progressed, declaring that every issue “got out on the table” and was fixed.
"‘‘When we walked out of the meeting, I felt great, and Steve did, too. Everything is going to be fine between Steve and myself. We’ve always had a terrific relationship.‘‘The last year and a half, it hasn’t been where it has been in the past. Now, it’s where it should be. There were some problems, and — you know me — if there’s something out there that I’m not easy with, I’m going to get it out. And we talked it over, and we’ll get back to where we were in 2009 and ’10.’’"
Obviously, proactive maintenance of the broadcasting situation for someone who has had as many incidents as Harrelson has should probably be happening anyway, and kudos to Reinsdorf in this case, who at least seems determined to pair his steadfast loyalty to his longtime employees with acknowledgement of their issues.
However, one must hope that issues prompting the meeting and the resolution reached aren’t rooted in adjusting their fundamental natures as announcers, since they have both been around far too long to expect changes in that regard. Hawk is going to be emotional and sway with the fates of the game, and Stone is going to be dry, and favor more measured analysis. He even discusses rate stats other than batting average, when Hawk isn’t looking.
When Hawk missed the Sept. 27 game against the Rays, a loss that devastated the Sox playoff hopes and would have left Harrelson morose, Stone led an even-keeled broadcast with David Huff that may have lacked the regular play-by-play setup’s energy, but didn’t descend into misery alongside the Sox either. If it acted as a representation of how Stone conceives of the ideal broadcast, the differences are pretty stark.
"‘‘The last year and a half, it hasn’t been where it has been in the past. Now, it’s where it should be. There were some problems, and — you know me — if there’s something out there that I’m not easy with, I’m going to get it out. And we talked it over, and we’ll get back to where we were in 2009 and ’10.’’"
But Hawk’s enthusiasm is well-taken, even if the next time he isn’t the enthusiastic good soldier for the organization will be his first in decades. It’s worth noting that this arrangement wasn’t always a grumbling mass of contrasts, but a breath of relatively fresh and odorless air in the immediate aftermath of the Harrelson-Darrin Jackson booth. Perhaps this new attitude will even allow the White Sox TV broadcast team to reach such far off dreams like the radio team’s 29th place finish in FanGraphs’ national broadcaster rankings. Such dreams.
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