For as long as I can remember, Hawk Harrelson has been the voice bringing me White Sox baseball on television. Hawk has been the voice of my summer since I was seven years old, until now. It was announced Wednesday that next year will be Hawk’s last as a broadcaster, and even that will come with a reduced slate of home games. It truly is the end of an era.
I watched baseball in the time before Hawk returned to the Sox broadcast booth in 1990, but those are memories that are lost somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind. What I do remember, is learning about the game, its past, and its great stories, by listening to Hawk and Wimpy call White Sox games from 1990 until 1999. This took me right through my junior year of high school, leaving me with one season of Hawk and DJ before I left for college. That same year, I spent the spring semester of high school calling our school’s baseball games with Jason Benetti, who will take over for Hawk as the Sox play-by-play voice. More on Jason in a moment.
Hawk is by no means perfect as a broadcaster. This is something I have become more aware of as I have gotten older. However, it is hard for me to tell whether he always had these glaring flaws, or if I am just more aware of them now. As a young kid growing up and watching the team I lived and died with every day, Hawk was just one of us calling the game. He was the voice of the fan, for better or for worse. And most of the time, he made it fun. That is something that sticks out. The catch phrases, the nicknames, the crazy stories, all of these things make the game fun. And that is something we need to remember, especially in this day and age. Baseball is a game, and a game is supposed to be fun.
Hawk was never as polished as the Vin Scully’s or the Dick Enberg’s, and he was never as universally accepted as a character as Harry Carey. But for Sox fans, Hawk was our guy.
Like many, my enthusiasm for Hawk has waned in recent years. Whether I am just too old for the antics, or too aware of the value of advanced statistics, or I have just heard the same story too many times, the act doesn’t resonate the way it once did.
But, like the great players of the game who have limped to the finish line of their careers, I am not going to remember the last few seasons of Hawk when I think back on his days in the booth. I am going to remember the excitement I got the first time every spring when, after a long Chicago winter, Hawk appeared on my TV and told me to “sit back, relax, and strap it down.” I am going to remember the Big Hurt, One Dog, The Deacon, The Milkman, The Pope, and Black Jack. I am going to remember Bo Jackson “putting it on the board” to send the Sox to the playoffs for the first time I could remember. I am going to remember stories about hanging out with Mickey Mantle and lessons about the game from Yaz. And I am going to remember watching games with my Dad in the living room while Hawk and Wimpy helped me learn the game.
Now the next generation of Sox fans will have a new voice to bring them White Sox baseball, and teach them about the finer points of the game. They will listen to a local kid, who grew up rooting for the Sox while getting his feet wet in broadcasting at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the south suburbs. Jason Benetti, who joined the team last year to call road games, will take over as the main play-by-play voice, and Sox fans are going to be a good hands.
You know how I know they are going to be in good hands? Because this is the job Jason has always wanted and was born to do. I know this is a dream job for him because we used to talk about how awesome it would be to one day take over for Hawk when we were calling games back in high school. This is the broadcaster equivalent of the top draft pick getting chosen by the team they grew up rooting for. And believe me, Jason is a first round talent. He calls games for all sports, all over the country. He works as hard as anyone, and he knows his stuff. He’s incredibly nice and gracious, and when I texted him after he got the Sox job, he responded that day, even though we had only seen each other once in the last couple years.
Jason is a well-trained broadcaster, and much more of a traditional play-by-play voice compared to Hawk. He is not Hawk, nor should he try to be him. He is his own voice and personality. But, there is one trait that Jason took from the Hawk we grew up listening to, and that is remembering that a baseball broadcast is supposed to be fun. His style in doing so is different from the Hawkeroo, but it gets the job done.
I have no doubt that the next generation of Sox fans will grow up learning, laughing, and loving the White Sox broadcast as long as Jason Benetti is behind the mic. Just as he and I did while listening to Hawk.