Kenneth Smith Harrelson
Born: Sept. 4, 1941 in Woodruff, S.C.
Debut: 1963 | Pos: 1B/OF
H: 6'2" | W: 190 | B: R | T: R
>> Visit the Ken Harrelson biography on Baseball Almanac for complete statistics.
Ken Harrelson, born in Woodruff, S.C., became baseball's "bad boy" in the 1960s and provided fans with a colorful character on and off the field. He wore long blond hair, love beads, bell-bottoms and Nehru jackets and his own "Hawk" medallion.
When he was in the fifth grade, his family moved from Woodruff to Savannah, Ga. Harrelson's baseball career almost didn't happen. Harrelson was much more interested in playing basketball. He was hoping for a basketball scholarship from Kentucky. He attended Benedictine in Savannah, Ga., where he played baseball, football, basketball and golf.
He puts the credit for wanting to play baseball on his mother Jesse.
"She was a big impetus," Harrelson said in an article in the Savannah Morning news.. "Recognizing that I had athletic ability, she wanted me to be a major league baseball player."
Harrelson broke into the majors with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963. In his first full season, he showed he had some power. Harrelson hit 23 home runs that season. Harrelson and Athletics' owner Charlie Finley, however, constantly clashed and Harrelson was sent to the Washington Senators in !966.
Harrelson and Finley made a short-lived peace in 1967 and Harrelson returned to the Athletics. However, after calling Finley a "menace to baseball," Harrelson was released despite leading the team in home runs. With outfielder Tony Conigliaro on the injury list, The Boston Red Sox picked up Harrelson, paid him a bonus and won the pennant with his help.
In 1968, Harrelson was named the Sporting News' Player of the Year and appeared in the All-Star Game. That season, he hit .275 with 35 home runs and 109 runs batted in. He also finished the season with a perfect fielding mark in right field.
With the return of Conigliaro in 1969, Harrelson wasn't needed and the Red Sox traded him to Cleveland. Upset over the Hawk's departure, Boston's fans picketed the park, demanding Harrelson's return, but to no avail.
Harrelson broke his leg in spring training in 1970 and missed most of the season. When he came back, he was disgusted with the lack of fan support in Cleveland and told the management he would retire if they didn't trade him. The trade didn't come through and Harrelson at the age of 30. He finished his career with a .239 average, 131 home runs, 421 runs batted in and 53 stolen bases.
Harrelson attempted to take up another professional career -- golf. However, he didn't have the success on the links that he did on the baseball field. Harrelson later returned to baseball and served as a general manager for the Chicago White Sox.
Since 1991, Harrelson has been a part of the Chicago White Sox broadcast team. Harrelson and his wife, Aris, have two children, daughter Krista and son Casey. The family resides in Orlando, Fla.