The Legend of Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson

Baseball has always prided itself as the game without a clock. Unlike football or soccer or basketball, a team with a lead cannot “run out the clock” in the waning minutes of a game; baseball gives each team the same number of outs. An average Major League Baseball game takes over three hours. In the 1970s, it was two-and-a-half hours. In the forties, a game took two hours.

Seeking ways to speed up the game, Major League Baseball is inaugurating a twenty-second pitch clock for spring training this year. There is no word yet if the clock will carry into the regular season. Regular-season all-star pitcher Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has already announced he will ignore the clock and what’re ya gonna do about it. (Kershaw’s salary is about $185,000 per inning pitched.) MLB recently instituted a rule limiting the number of visits a coach or manager or catcher may make to the pitcher’s mound and how long the visit can last.

I have a suggestion: ban batting gloves.

For the first hundred years of the game, hitters wore callouses, not gloves.

Ken Harrelson, nicknamed “The Hawk’ in honor of his prominent nose, is generally credited/blamed for the batting glove. Harrelson played forty-one games with the Portland Beavers in 1963. The Beavers, a minor-league affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics, were a member the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Harrison batted .300 with nine home runs before being called up to the American League Athletics. (The A’s departed for Oakland in 1968.)

The Hawk enjoyed life’s pleasures and was an avid golfer. On the fateful day of September 4, 1964, expecting to not be in the lineup that day, he played 36 holes of golf before reporting to the ball park. To his surprise, Harrelson was playing, batting third. Hands covered with blisters, he remembered his golf gloves in his pants pocket.

Or so the story goes; if not true, it should be. Nitpickers like to give examples of this or that player who had worn a glove while batting. What is true is that soon after, more and more players began wearing gloves in the batter’s box. Today, a hitter without gloves is a rarity.

One thought on “The Legend of Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson”

  1. I always enjoyed watching White Sox games on WGN when Hawk and Wimpy were the co-announcers. They had great stories to tell when not directly describing the game at hand. Often it seemed that Hawk was the straight man to Wimpy’s comedic tales about his own playing days but then it would get turned around and Hawk would tell a funny story about himself. Nowadays it seems that we’ve lost our great commentators of the game..

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