Explaining, defending Ken Harrelson

I’ve known Ken Harrelson for 26 years. Back in 1986, the Chicago Tribune dropped me without a parachute into the White Sox beat. I was 26-years-old and woefully inexperienced; the year before I actually covered the Illinois state high school badminton tournament.

To top things off, the Sox made Ken Harrelson their general manager. It proved to be a wild season, with Hawk eventually firing Tony La Russa. Yet through it all, I still have fond memories of working with Harrelson that year. There never was any BS with him and that definitely holds true today.

I’m saying all this because it helps explain why Harrelson went off like he did Wednesday in Tampa. The video has gone viral, and he even got some play on SportsCenter.

It is a quite a rant. Epic, even.

Yet this is what White Sox fans come to expect of Harrelson. In fact, this homerish approach even predates him. During the 1970s and early 80s, Harry Caray was blowing up people left and right while calling Sox games, and many of his targets were Sox players. Then it went over the top when Caray was joined by Jimmy Piersall, easily forming the most outrageous broadcast team of all time.

You think yesterday was crazy? Just check out some old clips from Harry and Jimmy.

Back to Harrelson, as I saw first-hand 26 years ago, you need to know he lives for this team, and he will do anything for its owner, Jerry Reinsdorf. He has more than 30 years invested in this franchise. The loyalty runs extremely deep.

It is all genuine with Harrelson in the booth. When the Sox lose, it’s hard to say who takes it tougher: Hawk or Sox GM Kenny Williams.

I tried to call Harrelson this morning, but he explained in a radio interview on WSCR-AM 670, he has decided to turn off his phone. However, don’t think for one minute he will back down from yesterday’s comments.

From WSCR’s site, which has audio of the entire interview:

“First of all, I still have a headache because I got so upset yesterday,” he said. “I took four Advil after that inning was over and then I had to take four more on the plane and then when I got home last night I had to take four more. Also, when I got up this morning, I had to take four more.”

As for the play, his stance hasn’t changed.

“We had two guys drilled, none of their guys got thrown at, none of their guys left their feet and then all the sudden we throw at Zobrist, which was below the belt about knee high behind him, and he throws Quintana out? Give me a break,” the broadcaster said.

ChicagoSide also ran an interview by Daniel Dorfman this morning on Harrelson’s 30 years in Chicago. It included this quote:

…On being a homer

HAWK:That to me is the greatest compliment that can be paid to an announcer. I want the White Sox to win. When they win there is not one person happier than I am. When they lose there is no one more down than I am. I have some detractors, as every announcer does, and I have fans who love the Hawk, and I think one of the reasons why is that I am a White Sox guy and I give the other team credit but I want the White Sox to win.

When I am doing a game and I have to bite my tongue, they know by my silence, which is the greatest communicator of them all.

Indeed, at age 70, Harrelson isn’t about to change, and most Sox fans are fine with that. Expect more clips like the one he produced Wednesday.