Does White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson belong in The Hall of Fame?
By Jeff Shirk
White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson has over time become an iconic baseball announcer and South side legend, even more than another former Sox broadcaster who already resides in the Hall of Fame. The Hawk should be there too.
Baseball announcer and television personality Matt Vasgersian will be joining Hawk Harrelson in the broadcast booth during Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Indians. In town to broadcast ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game across town, Vasgersian will not just be paying a social visit to Guaranteed Rate Field.
He’ll continue championing his “Hawk to the Hall” quest to have the legendary Sox broadcaster and baseball icon join Harry Caray as former Sox broadcasters in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Does Harrelson belong in the Hall of Fame? “YES!” Sorry, I had to. His delivery is iconic, and he became the broadcast face for a franchise that could use all the help it can get in the area of façade. Harrelson was unabashedly a “homer” – someone overtly supportive of the Sox to help get fans and viewers excited. He’s also pretty charming and entertaining, which made listening to Hawk and Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek a memorable experience as much if not more than the actual games they called.
The fact that Harrelson has become so famous over time is impressive in itself, but even more so when one considers that he took a role that was not long before occupied by the great Harry Caray before he became a legend himself across town with the Chicago Cubs. And for Caray, all this was after he served as the popular broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals. I’ll bet very few Cubs fan are aware of that last fact.
Any time you go for a job interview, it’s a best practice to inquire how the predecessor(s) performed in the role. If you hear they were beloved and walked on water, think to yourself how likely is it you’ll be able to outperform that. If on the other hand you hear less than superlative comments about those people it’s highly likely there is upside potential and you’ll come in like a knight on a white horse. That’s positioning for success.
Anyone think White Sox fans might have had an affection for Harry? Would anyone have thought that Harrelson could become as popular or iconic a White Sox announcer? Exactly. Herein lies the point and captures the accomplishment. Harrelson belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Just like Caray is now.
Harrelson had a knack for nicknames, many of which stick to this day. Aside from the Big Hurt can anyone remember who Black Jack was? How about The Deacon ? Or One Dog? Or The Officer or The Hammer or The Pope? Click on those hyperlinks for a little fun. I can’t recall if he had a nickname for Matt Merullo, but if he did it is undoubtedly more famous today than Merullo’s actual name. That’s called impact.
Vasgersian is a baseball ambassador as well, and in my opinion will one day himself join Harrelson and Caray in the Hall. I know Vasgersian personally. I don’t care who you are, you have never met anyone as passionate about baseball. If you happen to cross paths with him someday, ask him about his beloved Athletics. Or the 1988 World Series. Or Dock Ellis. You’ll get a response you’ll never forget, and it will be 100 percent raging passion wrapped neatly the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.
Vasgersian and I met by chance years ago when we lived in Los Angeles and both worked in the entertainment industry. We happened to join the same Rotisserie Baseball league together, coincidentally with a couple other Chicago sports writing icons by the names of Steve Rosenbloom and Phil Rosenthal.
One need only to broadcast a single game to realize how hard it is to talk continually through a baseball game credibly and relevantly. For us mere mortals, it’s nearly impossible. For the likes of Harrelson and Vasgersian, it’s their gift. I learned this first-hand having once driven from Chicago to Bluefield, West Virginia to be Vasgersian’s color man for a Short A game broadcast early in his broadcasting career in 1991 with the Hunting Cubs. You had to drive the 600 miles to Bluefield, because the only things that fly there are cropdusters and birds.
If The Hawk heard that, he would undoubtedly respond with his classic delivery: “They got all my money in Bluefield.” In addition to being a former player and baseball expert, Hawk brought his unique personal charm and Ring Lardner-like colloquialisms to broadcasting a game. The point was to make it as personal and entertaining as if you were watching it with a friend. He didn’t just describe gameplay; Hawk rooted along with the fans much like Caray did. And in that sense, he transcended broadcasting in a manner that now many current broadcasters emulate.
I experienced a sweet melancholy when Paciorek returned to do a final game together with Harrelson this past May 6. Each fell right back into their respective roles as Hawk and Wimpy, and as a fan it was like it was just yesterday when together they kicked off the 1991 season and the team began playing in its brand new stadium on the South side of 35th Street. Memories.
And this is why Harrelson belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. All my money is on him being in Cooperstown.