Chuck Garfien sits down with Hawk Harrelson and A.J. Pierzynski in their first interview together to discuss their unique relationship which goes back 25 years to when Pierzynski was in high school and was considered the most hated baseball player in Orlando, Florida. Hawk talks about convincing Ken Williams to sign Pierzynski as a free agent in 2005, the time he wanted to fight Texas Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla after he beaned Pierzynski twice in a game. Harrelson tells the story about playing in a foursome with Michael Jordan, Jim McMahon and Mike Ditka. They also discuss the White Sox rivalry with the Twins in the 2000's, umpire Joe West, arm wrestling, Hawk's autobiography, AJ's plea to get Harrelson in the broadcasting wing in the Hall of Fame, their plan to call a White Sox game together next season, and much more.
The White Sox are welcoming back two more fan favorites.
They added to their growing list of team ambassadors Friday, announcing that Jose Contreras and Tim Raines will be joining A.J. Pierzynski — who made his own announcement Monday at the Winter Meetings — in returning to the organization.
Like Pierzynski, Contreras was a member of the beloved 2005 world championship squad. He teamed with Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Orlando Hernandez to form a formidable rotation that season. Contreras posted a 3.61 ERA during the 2005 regular season but was even better in the postseason, turning in a 3.09 ERA in four starts. He pitched into the eighth inning in each of those starts, including a complete-game effort in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, which the White Sox won to clinch the pennant.
All in all, Contreras spent six seasons with the White Sox from 2004 to 2009.
Raines, meanwhile, is a newly enshrined Hall of Famer, inducted earlier this year in honor of his 23-year major league career. He spent five of those seasons on the South Side and holds the franchise record in stolen-base percentage. He swiped 143 bags during his White Sox tenure.
Raines hit 98 doubles, 28 triples and 50 homers in a White Sox uniform.
The addition of this latest trio of ambassadors adds to an already impressive group of former White Sox in that role: Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Mike Huff, Bo Jackson, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton, Donn Pall, Dan Pasqua and Mike Squires.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A.J. Pierzynski is back with the White Sox, somewhat informally announcing himself Monday in the crowded lobby of the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort that he’ll be a team ambassador.
But while ambassadors typically spend time glad-handing, making appearances and throwing out ceremonial first pitches, Pierzynski has a very specific No. 1 goal now that he’s back on the South Side: send Hawk Harrelson to Cooperstown.
“My biggest goal is to get him into the Hall of Fame,” Pierzynski said, obviously beginning his campaign by wearing a baseball hat that said “Hawk” on it. “How you guys haven’t voted him into the Hall of Fame is beyond me. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame. Hawk is a special person and once in a multi-generation announcer. People use his phrases all the time walking down the street. They don’t even know where it came from. Hawk is special and special to White Sox fans and special to me and my family.”
Pierzynski spoke lovingly of the White Sox icon, the longtime announcer who will spend his final season in the broadcast booth in 2018. That’s one of Pierzynski’s other goals, by the way, to call a game alongside Harrelson in this, his last season behind the mic.
“Hopefully we’ll make it work,” Pierzynski said. He’s got some broadcasting chops now, too, after working with FOX. “I’ll move heaven and Earth to make sure I’m able to get at least one game in with Hawk, since it is his last year and we need to make this happen. We tried to make it happen last year, timing didn’t work because of FOX stuff. This year only doing Sunday games, it will make it a lot easier to be able to come out and just ride on Hawk’s coattails.”
But before you think it was a one-sided lovefest, the other half of that broadcasting-duo-to-be was present, too. Both Pierzynski and Harrelson are Orlando residents, so the drive to Disney World couldn’t have been a long one.
Harrelson had some reciprocal love for Pierzynski, making his own statement that the former catcher should get Hall of Fame consideration, as well.
“A.J., to me, you know he’s done something no other catcher will probably do, and that’s why I think he’s a very strong candidate for the Hall of Fame, is he caught 1,000 or more innings 12 consecutive years. I don’t think we'll ever see that again.”
“There’s nobody in baseball, with all these people here, every organization in baseball, there’s nobody in this room, this hotel and both these hotels, who knows more than about baseball than A.J. Pierzynski. He looks at the game differently than most people. If you watch him on TV as an analyst, he brings up some stuff that’s just fantastic. So he’s got a future in that.”
What becomes of this mutual Hall of Fame stumping remains to be seen. Pierzynski’s immediate future with the White Sox will include being part of the Opening Day festivities, representing the club at the Major League Baseball draft and attending some games on the South Side. Of course, the game or games that will likely be of most interest to White Sox fans are the ones where Pierzynski gets to team up with Harrelson in the booth.
That’s a lock to be entertaining television.
“A.J. has been one of my real joys, ever since he was a kid,” Harrelson said before reaffirming Pierzynski’s longtime reputation — something that often endeared himself to White Sox fans. “He was the most hated high school baseball player in Orlando. He had guys knocking down, drilling him, they hated him. He just carried it right on through, minor leagues to the big leagues. Ozzie (Guillen) said it best, he said half the guys on the team don’t like him, the other half hate him.”