In a puzzling move that illustrates the great cultural divide between North and South Side, the White Sox organization announced over the weekend it will pair Hawk Harrelson with Steve Stone in the broadcast booth. That is, to improve ratings, they’re keeping the Hawk. As far as I understand Stoney’s history, he’s one of the better broadcasters working today. That his comments sometimes raise the ire of his home team “ I can’t see that being a problem for a diplomat like Ozzie Guillen.
The other insult to common sense, the Sox are offering Darrin Jackson, Hawk’s current cell mate, the spot Stone currently holds calling Sox games in the growth industry known as South Side sports radio. Hopefully, Jackson has a better offer. Stone gets a six-year deal, and the reasoning is that because Stone has a “following,” fans will now watch Sox games? How about if the White Sox won a World Series for the first time since 1919, maybe that would improve their ratings? Oh wait, they did.
The Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein (with an assist from Dave Van Dyck) reports the Sox’ retreat from mainstream media here:
Sox TV ratings have lagged far behind those of the Cubs, and the team would like to change that. Stone became a fan favorite working with Harry and Chip Caray on Cubs broadcasts.
“I understand that, DJ does, Stoney does,” Harrelson said. “Ratings dictate a lot of things. Stoney has a huge following in Chicago. When they told me they were thinking about doing this, I understood.”
The move seems to close the door on the possibility that Stone will be involved in a Cubs ownership group.
He’s a Sox guy now, through and through.
“I know there are a lot of players who have played for both sides of town, but I do believe I’m the only broadcaster who has done radio on both sides of town and now television on both sides of town,” he said. “The fans on both sides of Chicago have treated me so well that it didn’t matter who I was working with or who I was playing with.”
TV jobs are generally more desirable than radio gigs for three reasons: There’s more prestige, they pay more and they allow the broadcasters to take breathers during the season. Fox and ESPN have combined to broadcast nearly a dozen Sox games this season.
“We haven’t gotten to that stage where we would talk about salary,” Jackson said. “We’ll talk more if I decide this is something I want to do.”