Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone have spent the offseason telling everyone who will listen that they really do love each other and that they will stop fighting and it’s not your fault.
Well, I took some liberties with the last two parts, but the Hawkeroo and Stone Pony are going out of their way to say that that the on-air tension was merely a bump in the road, and not a sign of things to come.
I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t matter if broadcasters are total besties in real life, just as long as they deliver a competent broadcast when the red light is on. I’ve been in radio for 13 years, and I know of plenty of successful broadcast partners who appeared to be friends on the air, but despised each other off mic.
Their personal disdain didn’t matter. People only heard what happened when the microphones were on and everyone was happy. The shows were successful, the ratings were high, and everyone got paid.
The White Sox TV ratings were quite good in 2012. Attendance was down compared to 2011, but people did watch the games at home.
Broadcasters have an ego. I’ll cop to having one. You don’t aspire to speak to hundreds of thousands of people if you don’t believe you have something to say. Hawk has always been an over-the-top character with a massive sense of his own greatness. As a player, he posed for the cover of Sports Illustrated in a swingin’ 60’s Nehru jacket. When a broken leg ended his baseball career, he became a professional golfer. When he couldn’t qualify for the Tour, he became the color analyst on Boston Red Sox TV broadcasts (with Dick Stockton on WSBK-TV). It was the start of a TV career that continues to this day (he left the booth in 1986 for one ill-fated year at the General Manager of the White Sox).
Hawk has been in this business for a long time, and he’s used to being the big dog. He once told me that he almost got into physical fights with Don Drysdale, his first broadcast partner with the White Sox. He passed on an opportunity to be a part of the ABC Monday Night Baseball broadcasts in the late 70’s because he hold Howard Cosell that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Partnerships with Tom Paciorek and Darrin Jackson ended with rumors of hard feelings between both sides.
Steve Stone is another guy who has experienced success elsewhere, and he also considers himself a baseball expert. His 15-year partnership with Harry Caray was an easy one, because both men had defined roles. Harry could be the loveable old coot, and Stone could be the knowledgeable baseball veteran. Stone’s “resident expert” status continued even after Harry Caray’s death in 1998. He was considered one of the smarter broadcasters in the game, and it was no surprise that Cubs fans wanted him to become the manager, General Manager, or even owner of the team.
Two men with considerable egos and records of success elsewhere were bound to clash sooner or later. When the Hawk/Stone pairing was announced at the end of 2008, one WGN colleague asked “How can you fit two big heads in such a small booth?” A confrontation between the two wasn’t an “if?” It was a “when?”
“When” finally arrived during the White Sox death spiral last September. Lingering bad feelings combined with the chore of watching bad baseball led to a falling out between the two. Jerry Reinsdorf had to play the role of marriage counselor. Both men say they have aired out their grievances, and are raring to go in 2013.
I suspect that isn’t true. But as long as they are able to keep the bad vibes out of the broadcast booth…what difference does it make? I really don’t care if they go out to dinner after games. They don’t have to love each other. They don’t have to like each other. All I want as a fan is an enjoyable broadcast.