White Sox also announce multiyear agreement with Benetti
By Scott Merkin
CHICAGO -- For those who don't completely grasp how much the White Sox truly mean to Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, take a look at the first few minutes of his Wednesday news conference to announce 2018 as his last season in the broadcast booth.
Harrelson, 75, had tears in his eyes and choked up more than a few times when discussing the decision to primarily work Sunday home games during his 34th year. The White Sox also announced a multiyear agreement with Jason Benetti, who joined the White Sox television broadcast team in 2016, to continue as the primary play-by-play voice for the White Sox with an expanded role in the booth.
"Jason Benetti is going to be a hell of an announcer," said Harrelson while sitting in the White Sox dugout. "I'm very, very proud of him, what he is right now and what he's going to be. He's still young in baseball as far as the Major Leagues and feeling his way a little bit. He's just going to get better and better and better. You're going to enjoy him a long, long time."
"I used to go around elementary school doing a Hawk impersonation," said Benetti, who spoke following Harrelson. "He's such a wonderful entertainer and person who loves the game so much, and to not feel that as a kid would mean I had a heart of stone. He is such an entertainer and lover of the game. To grow up watching Hawk made me realize you can have fun on the air and enjoy the game for what it is and beyond."
A reduction to working only road games for the past two seasons had been a welcome and necessary change for Harrelson. But the five-time Emmy Award winner and three-time Ford C. Frick Award nominee will work 20 games in 2018 and then become a White Sox ambassador through '19, marking the beginning of his eighth decade in baseball.
The goal for Harrelson is to spend more time with his grandchildren -- Nico, Alexander and Hank.
"Hawk has left a lasting imprint on the game of baseball across what will be an amazing career in the game," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in the team's news release. "His passion for the White Sox -- and for the game of baseball -- is apparent in every telecast he does."
"This has been the greatest ride of my life, and it's been a lot of fun with these fans," Harrelson said. "I'll never forget anything that has to do with this, nothing. I'll remember it forever."
Benetti, who grew up a White Sox fan and attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the South suburbs of Chicago, plans to continue his duties as a national play-by-play announcer for ESPN in 2018, calling games for basketball, baseball, football and lacrosse. He becomes the exclusive White Sox play-by-play announcer, working alongside Steve Stone, in '19.
But that '18 season isn't viewed as a farewell tour for the man who authored catchphrases such as "He gone," and "You can put it on the board, yes!" as well as nicknames such as "One Dog" and "The Big Hurt." Harrelson never can say goodbye to the White Sox.
"There's not a better organization in baseball than the Chicago White Sox," Harrelson said. "It's just that simple. You can tie us but you can't beat us."