Sox broadcasters ‘Hawk’ Harrelson, Steve Stone say issues resolved
BY CHRIS DE LUCA firstname.lastname@example.org March 12, 2013 9:31PM
Chicago White Sox Fest Opening Ceremonies Friday, January 21 2011. Palmer House Hilton | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:39AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ken ‘‘Hawk’’
Harrelson once shared the booth with Don Drysdale, a tandem widely praised as one of the best in baseball broadcast history.
Steve Stone broke in on ‘‘Monday Night Baseball,’’ sharing the booth with Howard Cosell, Al Michaels and Keith Jackson long before becoming Harry Caray’s trusted companion on Cubs broadcasts.
Harrelson and Stone have become synonymous with Chicago baseball since the 1980s. But there was something wrong when the two shared the White Sox’ TV booth last season.
‘‘There was some tension,’’ Harrelson said this week. ‘‘It happens.’’
The tension led to a meeting ordered by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf during SoxFest this winter, amid rumors Stone was ready to bolt after four seasons working with Harrelson. Both sides aired their differences and left the room with a firm handshake.
Besides, both men have contracts through 2015.
‘‘I believe everything has been resolved,’’ Stone said. ‘‘I think this year is going to be much better broadcasts than it has been.
‘‘We’re two pretty smart guys. And the common ground that we reached and what I told him: I’m only interested in one thing, and that’s to make the best broadcast possible. I want this to be our best year, and I think both of us have the ability to do that.’’
Both admitted there had been growing tension the last two seasons. This came after a pretty good marriage the first two seasons.
‘‘I really have no idea,’’ Stone said. ‘‘I guess if you really can’t pin down anything, it’s never really simple. It’s never really one thing; it’s a number of things.
‘‘I don’t think either of us have been happy with the last couple of years. We don’t need major surgery here. What we have to do is just remember that we are partners — good times, bad times, funny things, serious things, whatever the case may be. It’s two guys going along on the same track, not two guys working along parallel tracks.
‘‘I think the fans are going to be pleasantly surprised with the growth of our partnership and what both of us are going to bring to the table this year.’’
During the SoxFest meeting that included Reinsdorf and Sox broadcast officials, it was stressed the two need to talk more on the air about situations that play off of Stone’s knowledge of a pitcher’s mind-set and Harrelson’s knowledge of a hitter’s mind-set. The talk hit a wall at times last season.
Before signing off after the season finale, Stone said: ‘‘There are a lot of lessons to be learned. One of them is that the clock is always ticking. You’ve got to enjoy what you do.’’
After an awkward pause, Harrelson said: ‘‘All right.’’
There was no hiding the tension anymore.
‘‘I worked with ‘Wimpy’ [Tom Paciorek] for 10 years, I worked with D.J. [Darrin Jackson] for 10 years, before they made the change and brought Stoney over to get a pitcher and a hitter together,’’ Harrelson said. ‘‘Steve is just so good at what he does. The first two years were just fantastic. I told my wife that this is pretty close to the way I felt about Don Drysdale and myself.’’
Some have speculated Hawk’s homerism grates on Stone, but Stone denied it.
‘‘There are people who view that as a negative; I view it as an extreme positive,’’ Stone said. ‘‘I like the fact that he wants the White Sox to win every day. I want the White Sox to win every day, but he has been around longer. He also believes that every call should go the White Sox’ way. Obviously, as we know, it doesn’t work that way.
‘‘If they do win, he’s a very happy man. When they lose, he’s not such a happy man. And it all comes through the microphone. That’s one of the similarities he has with Harry: You could pick the game up at any time, and by listening to the inflection in Harry’s voice or listening to the inflection in Ken’s voice, you can tell if the team is winning or losing.’’
Harrelson vows he won’t put a lid on his emotions.
‘‘Before that would happen, then I would get out,’’ Harrelson said. ‘‘I’m not going to be scripted.’’
And Stone stressed playing second banana is not an issue.
‘‘Don’t forget, I came in from the other side of town, basically, and came into Ken’s broadcasts,’’ Stone said. ‘‘Just like when I came to the Cubs, I came into Harry’s broadcasts. I have no problem being the other man in the booth, being the second man in the booth. A lot of people call it the second banana. I always viewed that role as being fully acceptable. I mean, Ed McMahon did pretty well as a second banana to Johnny Carson. And I have done pretty well as a second banana to Harry and now to Ken.’’
The proof will be in the broadcasts, where ratings jumped from 1.8 in 2011 to 2.3 in 2012 on Comcast and from 2.3 to 2.4 on WGN, thanks largely to the 117 days the Sox spent in first place.
‘‘We had a meeting [and] cleared the air because there was definitely some tension there,’’ Harrelson said. ‘‘And now I feel great.’’
Said Stone: ‘‘If it works out — and I certainly believe that it’s going to — this will be, by far, our best year.’’