Sports

White Sox character races to feature likenesses to game announcers

At Milwaukee Brewers games, of course, they race sausages. And in Pittsburgh, it’s pierogies.
Meeting somewhere in the middle, the Chicago White Sox plan to have their four biggest hams – broadcasters Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Steve Stone, Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson – compete against each other this season.

The team has revealed that the 2014 character race at U.S. Cellular Field  will feature costumed characters representing the team’s radio and TV personalities. The dash will be held every Sunday at the top of the seventh inning.

The four oversized, foam costumes bear striking resemblances to their namesakes, save the Jackson character who looks more like a goateed John Travolta than the former White Sox outfielder. The big-headed Hawk, however, is sporting the announcer’s trademark sunglasses, while Stone’s likeness embraces the 1980 Cy Young winner’s fondness for sweater vests.

Such character races date back more than two decades in Major League Baseball, to when the Milwaukee Brewers first had people sprint across the field in oversized sausage costumers. Other teams have gone on to copy the crowd-pleasing contests, having everything from the former presidents (Washington) and Taco Bell Hot Sauces (Houston) compete in dashes.

The White Sox embraced the concept in 2012, when it held “retro races” featuring costumed versions of legendary players Dick Allen, Goose Gossage and Bill Melton to celebrate the 1972 team’s 40th anniversary. It continued the tradition in 2013, as characters bearing the likenesses of stars Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk and Ron Kittle raced in honor of the 30th anniversary of the 1983 team, which won 99 games en route to the AL West division title.

“Our retro racers have been a hit with Sox fans not only with the race itself, but with who is racing,” said Marty Maloney, the team’s public relations manager. “We wanted to continue with the racing tradition and the inclusion of notable characters that are members of our team in some way, shape or form. It was only natural that our broadcasters would serve as a great group of characters that we could model our racers after. They are fun and exciting. Each have their own unique style and distinct personality.”

In 2013, Baines and Fisk both won six races. The Kittle character, sadly, only won once.
But before you make your pick to click this season, Maloney warns that fans shouldn’t assume Jackson would own the advantage in a real-life race simply because he has at least 14 years on his broadcasting counterparts.

“Conventional wisdom would say so,” Maloney said in an email, “but NEVER count out Hawk.”
The White Sox open their season Monday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

sstclair@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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