By Jay Cohen
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, a colorful character known for his folksy sayings and unbridled enthusiasm for his longtime team, will retire after working 20 games next year in his 34th season in the booth.
The 75-year-old Harrelson, who also played in the majors for nine seasons with four teams and served as Chicago’s general manager for a short time, will work primarily Sunday home dates in 2018. After he finishes his TV duties, he will serve as a team ambassador for the 2019 season.
“There’s not a better organization in baseball than the Chicago White Sox,” Harrelson said before Chicago’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night. “It’s just that simple. You can tie us but you can’t beat us. To be in the situation I’ve been in, I’ve been blessed to have been in this situation for all these years. Do the math. Go figure.”
Harrelson began his broadcasting career with the Red Sox in 1975. He moved to Chicago in 1982, partnering with Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale. After stints as the White Sox GM and broadcast work with the Yankees and NBC, he returned to the White Sox booth in 1990.
Harrelson’s long tenure with the White Sox has produced several beloved sayings on the South Side of Chicago. There is “You Can Put It On the Board, Yes!” for White Sox home runs, and “He Gone” after a White Sox pitcher gets a strikeout. “Mercy” also is used frequently.
The White Sox gave out a Hawk Harrelson alarm clock with some of his sayings for a home game this year, and it was one of their most popular promotions of the season.
“There will never be another personality in the booth quite like Hawk Harrelson,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said in a release.
Watch: Some of Hawk Harrelson’s greatest calls
But Harrelson’s personality caused a bit of an issue for the team in 2012 when he criticized umpire Mark Wegner for ejecting White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana in the fourth inning of a game at Tampa Bay. Harrelson’s rant got the attention of then-baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Reinsdorf, who both talked to the broadcaster about the outburst.
Everyone eventually moved on.
Harrelson wants to spend more time with his family and plans to take it year by year after his season as a team ambassador. He lives near South Bend, Indiana, and drives in for home games, and he admitted the trip is getting more difficult for him.
“Semi-truck drivers and my temper don’t mix,” he said. “Not at 3:30 in the morning, especially when it’s raining, because I’ve got an axe handle in the back of my car along with some Mace. And I’ve literally chased some of those guys before. I’m just glad I haven’t caught anybody because one of us would’ve been knocked out.”
The White Sox also announced a multiyear contract with Jason Benetti to continue as the primary play-by-play voice for the team. Benetti, a Chicago-area native who grew up a White Sox fan, joined the team’s broadcast booth last year.
“I am excited to see this team grow, I really am,” he said. “This is unbelievable timing considering the guys in that spring training clubhouse for the first time are there right around when I got there so I can watch them as they grow as you all will and the fans will and get to know them from Day 1 and to do that with this new batch of players is an outstanding opportunity.”
Harrelson made his major league debut with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963 and also played for the Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, finishing with a .239 batting average, 131 homers and 421 RBIs. He had his best season with Boston in 1968, when he had 35 homers and a major league-best 109 RBIs.
He retired after the 1971 season and played professional golf for a short time before he got into broadcasting. He played in the 1972 British Open.
“The White Sox, 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.”