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Longtime Sox broadcaster ‘Hawk’ Harrelson reflects on his years in baseball

Ken Harrelson

Ken Harrelson

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Updated: April 14, 2013 6:40AM

I love baseball more now than I ever have.

I’m one of the few guys who have been in this game parts of seven decades. It has been fantastic to see the changes in the culture of the game.

My first spring training, we didn’t have lockers; we had a nail. You took your street clothes off, hung them on that nail. We got $1.75 meal money. I was making money to play baseball. I couldn’t believe that at 17.

When I came in, the minimum salary was $6,000. Today, it’s right at $400,000. My first two years in baseball, I made more playing golf, shooting pool and arm wrestling than I did playing Major League Baseball.

It’s mostly been good, but there has been some bad. Things I don’t agree with and probably never will.

Three best people I’ve met in baseball — I’m talking great players who were even better people off the field: Catfish Hunter, Mark Buehrle and Robin Ventura.

When I first came into broadcasting in 1975, Curt Gowdy said: ‘‘Let me tell you something, Hawk. You have the chance to be a hell of an announcer. I’m going to give you the best piece of advice you’re ever going to get: Don’t try to please everybody. Those guys become cookie-cutters, and they don’t last long.’’ About two weeks later, Howard Cosell called me up. He said: ‘‘I’ve been catching a lot of your games. You have a chance to be a hell of an announcer, but I’m going to give you the best piece of advice you ever had: Don’t try to please everybody.’’ It was almost identical, from two great announcers.

I drive 200 miles a day when we are at home during the season. I live near South Bend, a town called Granger, which is the next exit on down after Notre Dame. Been there four years. It’s exactly 100 miles from my garage to my parking spot. That allows me see the grandkids every day. I love it. Gives me a chance to get ready for the game. I go through about two or three books on tape a week. After the game, if we win, I’ll listen to the West Coast games on XM radio. I told Vin Scully,
‘‘I forgot how great you are.’’

There are some good umpires out there. And, believe it or not, Joe West behind the plate is a terrific umpire — when he wants to be.

I know Cubs fans don’t like me. The funny thing about it is, I don’t pull against the Cubs. In fact, I would like to play them 18 times a year so we could kick their ass.

I’m the luckiest son of a bitch who ever set two feet on the face of the earth. Really. I’ve never had a job in my life.
Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve loved.

I want to die in the booth, I really do. If I could write my own script, I would be calling it: ‘‘Here’s the pitch from Sabathia, Konerko at the plate. That ball’s hit hard. Waaay back.
Granderson looks up. You can put it on the boarrrrd . . . ’’ Bam. That would be, for me, the perfect ending.

I would just like to die in the booth, doing a baseball game. That’s how much I love it.

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