Harrelson 'honored' to be Frick finalist

Sox announcer seeks to join previous Chicago winners Caray, Brickhouse, Elson and Hamilton

Jerry Reinsdorf is talking up Ken Harrelson, who rarely needs help calling attention to himself.

The long-time White Sox play-by-play voice is a candidate for the 2014 Ford Frick Award, the Hall of Fame's highest honor for a baseball broadcaster. The team chairman gives such a ringing endorsement, it almost seems as if he would be happier than Harrelson if he won.

Reinsdorf, 77, calls the 72-year-old Harrelson "a brother," although he puts his sentiments in another context.

"You always take more pleasure from seeing your kids succeed," Reinsdorf said.

Harrelson is one of 10 finalists for the Frick Award, which recognizes long and meritorious service in the booth. The group includes Mike Shannon from the Cardinals and Dewayne Staats, the former Cubs announcer who now works for the Rays.

The voting committee is made up of all 16 living Frick Award winners, including Vin Scully and Bob Uecker, and a panel of five broadcast consultants, including Bob Costas. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

The Frick Award doesn't mean the recipient technically is in the Hall of Fame. But he does get a plaque in Cooperstown.

It is as big as it gets for announcers, as Harrelson seeks to join previous winners with Chicago ties — Harry Caray, Jack Brickhouse, Bob Elson and Milo Hamilton. However, he is realistic about his chances. He knows winning the Frick Award is a process.

"I used to call (Mariners announcer) Dave Niehaus, and say 'This is your year, Buddy,'" Harrelson said. "He'd say, 'I've been a finalist 14 or 15 times. I don't even think about it anymore.'"

What happened to Niehaus, who finally won the Frick in 2008, shows voters tend to go with candidates who have been finalists for many years. This is Harrelson's second time on the final ballot.

Length of service with one team also is a top priority. Harrelson just completed his 27th year with the Sox. Meanwhile, Shannon, one of this year's favorites, has logged 42 years with the Cardinals.

In other words, Harrelson might have to get in line.

"I have a 100-mile drive (from the South Bend area, where I live during the season) to do the Sox games," Harrelson said. "After our game, I listen to a lot of the games (on satellite radio). Shannon is terrific. He's old school. All of the guys on the list are deserving to be in the Hall of Fame."

Indeed, it is up to Reinsdorf to do any sort of campaigning for Harrelson. He hired him along with Don Drysdale to man the White Sox TV booth in 1982.

"He has all his 'Hawkisms,' but if you get through, 'The put-it-on-the-board' stuff, he tells you a lot about the game," Reinsdorf said. "When you think of Hawk, you think of the White Sox. There's no question he's extremely popular with our fans."

Yet apart from Sox fans, Harrelson has been criticized for being a homer, at times going over the top. His polarizing style could be a turn-off for some Frick voters who prefer a less partisan call.

So be it, Harrelson said. Early in his broadcast career in Boston, Harrelson noted within a two-week period he got the same advice from Curt Gowdy and Howard Cosell: "Be yourself and don't try to please everybody."

"I have people who love me, people who can't stand me, and there's not too much in between," Harrelson said. "There's not much apathy in there."

Reinsdorf's dream scenario would be for next summer's Hall of Fame ceremony to feature slugger Frank Thomas, who is eligible for the first time, and Harrelson. Harrelson's acceptance speech likely would be a highlight at Cooperstown.

If he doesn't get the nod in December, Harrelson will have to wait another three years to be considered again thanks to a change in format by the Hall. In an effort to recognize announcers who have been overlooked from baseball's more distant past, the Hall decided to place Frick voting on a rotating category basis. This year, it is "The High Tide Era" from 1980 to present; next year will be "The Living Room Era" covering the mid-50s to the early '80s; in 2015, the Frick will consider nominees from "The Broadcast Dawn Era," pre-1950s; then back to the modern era in 2016 for the 2017 ceremonies.

CHICAGO