White Sox

After White Sox announce 2018 will be his last season in booth, Hawk Harrelson reflects on baseball, hate mail and chasing truck drivers

After White Sox announce 2018 will be his last season in booth, Hawk Harrelson reflects on baseball, hate mail and chasing truck drivers

Hawk Harrelson’s legendary broadcast career with the White Sox is about to be put on the board.

The longtime White Sox announcer will spend his final season in the team’s booth in 2018, calling 20 games at Guaranteed Rate Field before moving to an ambassador role with the team in 2019.

Harrelson started calling White Sox games in 1982, the beginning of a four-season stint in the booth before he became the team’s general manager for the 1986 season. After that came two years broadcasting for the New York Yankees, but he returned to the South Side and has been calling games for the White Sox ever since.

That’s 33 seasons of “he gone” and “can of corn” and “Kansas City special” and “you gotta be bleepin’ me” and “TWTW” and “put it on the board.” Next season, his 34th, will be his last.

Harrelson talked to the assembled media after the White Sox made the announcement Wednesday, and the 75-year-old announcer famous for wearing his emotions on his sleeve showed them once again, choking up as he talked about what is now an official end to his broadcast career.

“After all these years? After so many strikeouts and so many fat sand wedges and over 6,000 games I called, it’s about that time,” Harrelson said. “It’s getting there. I still love it. But I want to spend more time with the grandkids.

“The White Sox, this has been the greatest ride of my life, and it’s been a lot of fun with these fans. I’ll never forget anything that has to do with this, nothing. I’ll remember it forever.”

While spending more time with his family seemed to be the primary reason for Harrelson’s decision, he also alluded to his lengthy commute from Granger, Ind., and his drives back late after games. And of course he did it in his trademark style.

“Living in the Eastern zone and working in the Central zone, after the games are getting longer, that makes my trip with my temper — semi-truck drivers and my temper don’t mix. 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,” Harrelson said to laughs. “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.”

Harrelson will be remembered for tales like that one. An entertainer as much as a baseball announcer, Harrelson’s catchphrases, nicknames and stories about his playing days along famed players like Carl Yastrzemski have become part of his appeal to many — as well as part of why he’s not necessarily beloved by many others.

Yes, Harrelson sometimes seems to generate as many complaints as he does laughs. But don’t think that bothers him. He chuckled over receiving his fair share of hate mail over the years.

“I’ve learned over the years that I’ve got very, very thick skin,” Harrelson said. “And some of the best laughs and fun I’ve had has been reading some of the fan mail: ‘Hawk, you stink.’ And of course there’s a lot more on the other side that I appreciate. I still get a tremendous amount of fan mail. And as long as that happens, that says something about longevity in announcing.”

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Regardless of how one evaluates his announcing, though, what is an indisputable fact is his love of the White Sox.

In addition to being the team’s play-by-play voice, he’s also been its biggest fan. The elated howls of “these kids won’t quit” and the angered cries of “dadgummit” have shown just how much he has in common with the folks in the stands and watching at home.

Wednesday, in addition to saying how much he’ll miss those fans he shared so much with, he talked about what a joy it’s been for him to spend decades on the South Side.

“The White Sox have something special, and if you talk to a lot of players around baseball, the ones who have been here, they love it. To me it has been the greatest organization … in baseball,” he said. “There’s not a better organization in baseball than the Chicago White Sox. 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.

“(Jerry Reinsdorf is) the best owner in sports. You get other guys — for an example, we had some scouts the other day in Phoenix talking, three of them. And one of them said, ‘Hawk, I’m coming to see you guys next home stand. I’ve got to meet Jerry Reinsdorf. I just want to go up and shake his hand. I’ve got to meet him.’ And the other guys chimed in. Not many owners brought seven world championships to a city, and he’s not done yet.”

Harrelson’s swan song from broadcasting next year will help him advance toward his goal of spending parts of eight decades in professional baseball, a stated legacy he wants to leave for his grandchildren. After so many years in the game, you’d think Harrelson would have learned all there is to learn.

Instead, he’s learned perhaps the hardest thing to learn: that he still doesn’t know this game. And that’s what he’s going to miss most.

“Anybody tells you they know baseball, they’re full of it,” Harrelson said. “Nobody knows this game, that’s how beautiful it is. It changes all the time, and anytime a game changes, all of the sudden you don’t understand it."

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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Eloy Jimenez is starting to show off his big power

Eloy Jimenez is starting to show off his big power

It appears Eloy Jimenez is heating up.

The White Sox rookie outfielder didn’t get off to a great start this season, but he showed flashes of his potential. Then, he went down with injury and missed more than three weeks.

After going 0-for-7 in his first two games back from injury, Jimenez broke out with two home runs on Wednesday. He followed that up with another bomb on Thursday in a 4-0 win in Houston.


The fact that Jimenez stringing home runs together wasn't the big story of the game is a testament to Lucas Giolito's impressive outing on the mound.

Jimenez now has as many home runs in the four games since coming back from injury (3) as he had in his first 21 games before going down. That’s far too small of a sample size to say the time off did anything productive for Jimenez, but the 22-year-old is showing the power he was known for in the minors.

Overall, Jimenez is hitting .234/.280/.447. The average and on-base percentage are lower than expected considering he was a career .311 hitter in the minors. However, eight of his 22 hits in the majors have gone for extra bases, with six of those being home runs.

Thursday’s home run went 414 feet after he blasted shots of 419 and 417 feet the night before.

He also had some fun with the camera in the dugout and then had some fun in the field by celebrating a diving catch with a laugh.


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