While the rest of us were laughing at Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's childish rant at the umpiring of Mark Wegner on Wednesday, two of baseball's leading men were cringing.
So much so that commissioner Bud Selig and Chicago owner Jerry Reinsdorf have apparently told the White Sox broadcaster that going after the umpiring in such fashion on the air is not acceptable — no matter what his status as sport's biggest homer might be.
"I talked to Bud Selig yesterday," Harrelson told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine on Friday morning. "We had a talk. Actually, Bud talked and I listened. If it was a prize fight, they would have stopped it in the first round.
"I also talked to Jerry, and I listened to him as well. That's all I really have to say."
White Sox spokesperson Brooks Boyer told ESPN Chicago that Harrelson plans to address the much talked-about outburst during Friday night's broadcast in "the way he feels it be best addressed." What that means is anybody's guess, though it's nice to hear that Selig and Reinsdorf's words possibly got through to the old buffoon. (And here I thought that former Boston teammate Carl Yastrzemski owned the only opinion that mattered to Harrelson.)
Boyer says he believes that "moving forward those type of bursts and snaps will be limited if not eliminated." I hope that quote means that Harrelson has been threatened with discipline of some kind. Not because I didn't agree that Wegner's quick hook on rookie pitcher Jose Quintana seemed excessive — it was — but mostly because there are much better ways for a 70-year-old man to express his opinion than to act like a complete embarrassment to the broadcasting profession and toward those of us watching at home.
Here's the outburst, in case you haven't seen it:
You'll notice that my opinion is the polar opposite of my esteemed BLS colleague David Brown, who still writes Hawk's rapidly deteriorating performance off as the folksy homerism that made him famous on the South Side.
But with all due respect to Dave — who I think just likes having colorful characters around the game of baseball — Hawk left that shtick behind long ago. While referring to players by their first names and yelling "can of corn" and "he gone" was cute in an annoying sort of way (the days of listening about players like "The Big Hurt" and "Pope" Donn Pall were admittedly fun), Harrelson has plunged headfirst into a paranoid state of bitterness and bile that's simply unlistenable for anyone who enjoys watching baseball.
Pick a game, any game and every umpire is out to get his beloved Pale Hose, every lead or walk-off win by an opponent is a reason to silently sulk without providing any information to the viewer and every warning track out is a reason to scream "dadgummit!" Maybe the unbalanced diehards in the White Sox fan base really value and appreciate that type of approach. But for the rest of us who own a reasonable perspective on baseball and life? It's downright pathetic to see someone who's old enough to know better acting that way.
Not that I expect that Harrelson will ever really change. Reinsdorf is as loyal an owner as they come and I've always expected that Harrelson will report to the first tee box in the great golf course in the sky before he retires or is fired from the White Sox television booth. He acts the way he does because he knows there's little chance of reprimand, no matter how poorly he reflects on the organization.
Still, I'm willing to bet that Harrelson will be one of the few announcers with more than 25 years of service with one team never to receive the Ford C. Frick broadcasting award in Cooperstown. It's awfully hard to respect a guy who goes about the job the way he does.