Taped during May and June 2013 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago and Harrelson's home in Granger, Indiana, the documentary features archival footage from Harrelson's playing career, his time as a general manager, his exploits in professional golf, his broadcasting career, as well as excerpts from the Harrelson-inspired song "Don't Walk the Hawk" by the Val Perry Trio. Throughout the special, Harrelson shares his thoughts on his broadcasting style, his favorite moment as a broadcaster, how the "Hawk" persona differs from his regular personality.
Harrelson has served as a television broadcaster for the Red Sox (1975-1981), White Sox (1982-1985, 1990-present) and the New York Yankees (1987-1988). As a player, Harrelson batted .239 with 131 home runs and 421 RBI over nine MLB seasons as a first baseman and outfielder with the Kansas City Athletics (1963-1966, 1967), Washington Senators (1966-1967), Red Sox (1967-1969) and Cleveland Indians (1969-1971). He was named an AL All-Star with the Red Sox in 1968 when he batted .275 with 35 home runs and an AL-leading 109 RBI. Aside from his playing and broadcasting career, Harrelson spent time as a professional golfer, competing in the 1972 British Open, and also served as general manager for the White Sox in 1986.
Highlights from Hawk: The Colorful Life of Ken Harrelson include:
Ken Harrelson on the broadcasting advice he received from Curt Gowdy and Howard Cosell:
They were both right, both right. You cannot please everybody, especially in a two-team city. … Over the years, I've had a lot of critics and I've had a lot of love. I'll tell you what, obviously I love the love better, but I don't mind the critics.
Harrelson on turning down three manager jobs:
I turned down three manager's jobs and that's the reason I turned them down: because my temper is not conducive to being a good manager at all.
Harrelson on how he made money early in his MLB career:
I think in '63, I was platooning. My first two years in the big leagues, I made more money playing golf, shooting pool and arm wrestling than I did in baseball.
Harrelson on how the "Hawk" character was developed during his time with the Red Sox:
The fans in Boston, I would say they really created "Hawk." Yaz [Carl Yastrzemski] was a Triple Crown winner … but Yaz didn't have that personality, ok? There were no personalities there. I think what happened was that the people were really looking for a personality and the Hawk saw that and let it come out, but that was only after he was there. They didn't create him, they just enhanced him in his situation, and I didn't mind it. I went right along with it.
Harrelson on spending time with Joe Namath the night before Super Bowl III:
Joe and I, at one time, were pretty tight. The night before they played the Colts, I was at the Palm Bay Club down in Miami. Joe and I were together and we were together until about one or so o'clock in the morning. He was not drinking and I ask him, "Joe, what's going to happen tomorrow?" He says, "Hawk," he said, "I'll tell you what's going to happen tomorrow." He said, "The Colts are in a zone. They're not going to change. They're not going to change what got them here." He said, "I'm gonna six- and eight-yard them to death and we're going to win this ballgame." He [threw] four, six, eight, four, six, seven [yards]. Midway through the first quarter, you knew the Jets had a good chance of winning and they beat them.
Harrelson on the rivalry between Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio:
Ted Williams and I are having dinner. This is after I'm retired, I'm broadcasting now, and Ted comes down to Spring Training. We're talking, and [of] all the 150 hours we talked on hitting, I never talked to him about DiMaggio. Finally, I said, "Tell me about DiMaggio," because they didn't like each other at all. I said, "Ted, tell me about that trade where DiMaggio was going to come to Fenway. You're going to go to Yankee Stadium with that little short porch out there." He says, "To hell with Yankee Stadium." He said, "Put me in Detroit." I said, "Well, how many home runs would you have averaged in Detroit?" He said, "75 a year," and you got to believe him. I said, "Well, tell me about DiMaggio." He goes, "He's the best right-handed hitter I ever saw." I had never talked with Joe about baseball. This is amazing. I said, "Joe, tell me about Ted Williams and that trade [where] you were going to go to Fenway and he was going to go to New York." I said, "How many home runs would you have averaged in Fenway?" He said, "Probably around 70 a year," but you got to believe him. I said, "Well, tell me about Ted." He goes, "He's the best left-handed hitter I ever saw." Almost verbatim, the two of them.
Harrelson on his relationship with Mickey Mantle:
Mickey and I were tight. We played a lot of golf together. We ran together a lot. We had a lot of fun. Mickey never realized how much we loved him. I played against Mickey for six years. I played against Mickey the last game he ever played, 1968 [at] Fenway Park. [Ralph] Houk sent him up to pinch hit. We all knew it was his last game. I'm standing in right field, crying. I look over at Yaz in left field, he's crying. I couldn't see the infielders, but I guarantee you some of them were crying too. People never realized, or Mickey didn't, how much we loved him.
I love that guy. He told me, "Hawk," he says, "the worst thing I ever did in my life was name one of my kids Mickey, Jr." He said, "But how the hell did I know I was going to grow up to be Mickey Mantle?".
Harrelson on the biggest moment of his broadcasting career:
The biggest moment for me is [Mark] Buehrle's perfect game. The reason is because of Mark Buehrle, the person. Mark Buehrle is my all-time favorite White Sox player. … When you get a guy like Mark Buehrle, when he pitched that perfect game, I cried.
About MLB Network:
MLB Network is the ultimate television destination for baseball fans, featuring the Emmy Award-winning MLB Tonight, live games, including Postseason telecasts, original programming, highlights, and insights and analysis from the best in the business, including Bob Costas, Peter Gammons, Jim Kaat, Al Leiter and Harold Reynolds. MLB Network debuted on January 1, 2009 as the largest launch in cable television history and is currently distributed in 71 million homes throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For more information and to find MLB Network in your area, go to www.MLBNetwork.com.