07.19.06

Historian Claims The Hawk Was Once Lucid

Posted in Baseball, Sports TV at 12:57 am by

From Peter Gammons’ “Beyond The Sixth Game”

Fans always like to believe that their teams’ failurea are the fault of a manager or coach, perhaps most of all in baseball because of the game’s obvious strategic situations and choices. But few managers have ever taken the flogging that New England gave Don Zimmer. ‘The Sports Huddle,’ a call-in show on WHDH, cut off its callers if they mentioned Zimmer’s name; if they wanted to refer to the manager, they had to use the psuedonym, “Chiang Kai-Shek,” He ran away with the Herald’s “Pick-a-Goat” contest , and after releasing Rico Petrocelli in spring training of 1975, received letters so threatening that the club handed them over to the FBI. Every time he stuck his head out of the dougout after mid ’78, he was booed unmercifully. Zimmer always said he was worth “an extra twenty thousand listeners a night to the talk shows,” and in the late stages 1979, his public image sank even lower when the immensely popular Ken Harrelson began second guessing him in the during his telecasts of the games.

Harrelson was as much a figure in New England at that time as any player but Carl Yastrzemski. He’d been a member of the ’67 Impossible Dream team, he’d been the American League Player Of The Year in 1968, all the while living a colorful lifestyle of Nehru suits and plush apartments that endeared him to the fans as the loveable “Hawk.” In 1975, Dick O’Connell ingeniously brought him back as a television announcer with the polished Dick Stockton, a move that was a public relations coup. With his southern accent, cowboy hat and often brilliantly incisive commentary, Harrelson was as much the center of attention as he was as a player. The Hawk had learned baseball with Alvin Dark, and not only did he know the game, he loved to talk it and had a way of making definitive, logical judgements that sounded authoritive as if they were from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

3 Responses to “Historian Claims The Hawk Was Once Lucid”

  1. Seitz says:

    he…had a way of making definitive, logical judgements that sounded authoritive as if they were from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

    So how did he become such an asshole homer?

  2. GC says:

    y’know, i was a mere tot during the Hawk’s time in Boston (as player at least), and I certainly recall that he was just as popular as Gammons claims. This was a pre-”he gone” era, but I still had to rub my eyes a few times after reading the above passage.

  3. glenzo says:

    Apparently he was still able to harness that air of authority for long enough to convince Jerry Reinsdorf to hand him the White Sox GM reins for a brief period in the mid/late 80s (a tidbit of Sox lore I find more bizarre than Disco Demolition Night). Even more remarkable is the way he left the front office job and headed straight back to the booth. It seems most of his annoying announcing traits surfaced soon after that shift- perhaps spurred by seeing Harry Caray’s star rise across town even as he descended into caricature.

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