BOSTON -- While he holds a sacred place in his heart for Fenway Park, Hawk Harrelson has no love for Wrigley Field.
In what could be his final trip as the White Sox play-by-play man, Harrelson spoke glowingly about Fenway Park and the 1967 Boston Red Sox. A member of that American League pennant-winning team, Harrelson -- who is set to work a 20-game schedule in 2018 after which he’ll retire -- calls the 1967 season the renaissance of New England baseball and the birth of Red Sox Nation.
Harrelson will return to Boston on Aug. 16 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of a team that featured MVP Carl Yastrzemski and Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg and lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. He also hopes that he can work a return trip into next season’s limited schedule. But Harrelson currently has no plans for a return engagement to Wrigley Field.
“Fenway is just a special place,” Harrelson said. “Look at this ballpark. As we talked about the other day, the only one (visiting clubhouse) worse is Wrigley Field, the two worst clubhouses in baseball for visiting players. I’ll tell you this much, I’ll never go back to Wrigley Field again. We’ve got three games over at their place, and I told Jerry the other day before we came on this trip, I said, ‘I’m not going back to Wrigley Field.’
"He said, ‘Well, you’ve got three games there next year.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m talking with (Bob) Grim. We’re going to get rid of those.’ “Worst press box, worst booths for television. It’s a joke. It really is. And so, Jason (Benetti) is getting ready for those three at Wrigley. I will never step foot in that ballpark again. Ever.”
Harrelson signed with the Red Sox on Aug. 28, 1967, three days after he’d been released by the Kansas City Athletics. He had a career year in 1968, hitting .275/.356/.518 with 35 home runs and 109 RBIs. Traded to Cleveland the following April, Harrelson is still a fan favorite whenever he returns to Fenway. After Saturday’s game, Harrelson was recognized multiple times by fans as he made his way to the visiting clubhouse.
He attributes it to an atmosphere he thinks the 1967 club created and David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez enhanced by ending Boston’s World Series curse in 2004.
“(1967) was the birth of Red Sox Nation,” Harrelson said. “The renaissance of baseball and Yaz -- I love Ted Williams, he was a great, great guy. Arguably, certainly one of, if not the best hitter that ever lived, he and Musial probably. But Ted never had a year like Yaz had in ’67. It was one of those things you really had to see it to believe it.”
As he makes his final tour of the league, Harrelson -- who will mostly work home games and select contests in 2018 -- said he thinks about it being the last time for each. But he’s hopeful he gets one last trip to see the Green Monster.
“We’re going to play it by ear,” Harrelson said. “If I do make a trip it would certainly be Boston. In my playing career, playing in the All-Star Game, the World Series, that certainly supersedes anything else I ever did in my life.”