There had been a steady trickle of fuel for speculation that Steve Stone was on his way out of the White Sox television broadcast booth of recent.
- The enormous physical gulf between Stone and Hawk Harrelson in the broadcast booth throughout the year.
- A Chicago Magazine profile that called attention to the pair's lack of friendly interaction outside of on-air time.
- Stone's readily evident comfort and assertiveness in Hawk's absence on the last Thursday night of the season. The assertiveness was needed and expected, but still noticeable.
- He was decidedly non-commital when broached about the topic of his return a day later
- A job opened up wide for him in Arizona.
Well, apparently that was all the prelude for a joyous reunion, since Stone emphatically stated his intention to return in 2013 and his hopes to stay for further seasons on 670AM The Score Wednesday morning.
"I plan to stay with the Chicago White Sox through this contract and hopefully beyond. Regardless of what you might have read or heard or people speculated on or blogged or anything else, I will be back.
“It's 100 percent. Hopefully, as I say, for many years. In looking at it, this is, in my estimation, the best big city in the country."
One might notice the lack of a mention of Hawk Harrelson in Stone's explanation of why he wishes to stay put, as he instead opted to express his affection for the city and the comfort of his situation. That certainly did not seem unintentional, as Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald readily reminded us of Stone's comments on Harrelson from his previous radio spot.
"[The White Sox] realize that [Harrelson] might be the ultimate fan. So when things aren't going well for the team, he gets grumpy. Grumpier than the normal person would get who would be doing that particular job. For those of us who don't have those phenomenal highs and exceptional lows, it becomes a little bit difficult at times to relate."
We enter into a debate into what a hometown broadcaster is supposed to be whenever Hawk's merits are discussed--a homer who gives fans an atmosphere of cheering the team on together or an impartial observer who communicates the action as directly as possible? Whatever the case, Stone is paid to site there and deliver sober analysis, and the job of balancing out Hawk is getting harder for him.
Over the last few years, Hawk has steadily grown into an exaggerated version of himself, piling the exclamatory home runs calls on top of each other, but also ramping up the misery and umpire criticism. With this season witnessing the worst late-season collapse in recent franchise memory, a man already short on self-restraint was pushed into the morass.
The Mike Huff-Steve Stone broadcast team fro the 27th of September probably would not have been capable of booming out a memorable, cathartic victory the way Hawk can (REDDICKDUDDNMOOO!), but it kept an even keel throughout what would be another severely damaging loss, and saved the last three innings from dragging out like a knife.
But Hawk's staying. He's an institution, and if his present version isn't even enough to drive Steve Stone from the idea of spending six months zipping around the country at his side, it probably isn't causing any ripples of high significance.
For now, Stone's return, while not interesting or exciting beyond how much it shows that announcing is a job, is a solid positive. Anyone of less stature and experience than Stone is liable to receive the DJ treatment, and will struggle to balance out Hawk through his ornery patches as much as the Stone Pony has.
Which, obviously, is still not much.