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Hawk Harrelson adds casual sexism to his homer shtick

Hawk Harrelson's sexism shows that baseball is still struggling to communicate with fans who are women.

Jonathan Daniel

Some people, even people who aren't White Sox fans, like Hawk Harrelson. They are amused by his folksiness, his raging against modern statistical analysis, and his blatant, unapologetic homerism. I suppose I can understand that to a degree. In an era where most broadcasters are fairly interchangeable, and covering a game has become standardized, Hawk presents something wholly unique and disruptive. At the very least, he's provided some of the most entertaining silences in the history of broadcasting:

In the wake of his sexist comments Wednesday night, it's clear he would benefit from shutting up more often. Let's set the scene.

On Tuesday night against the Giants, in the top of the 10th inning, Buster Posey was allowed to camp near the base line in front of home plate as John Danks tried to score. Here's the play:

As you can see, Posey had the ball and applied the tag, but there was some question as to whether Posey had violated rule 7.13, which is designed to prevent collisions at home plate. The rule states that "Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe." The umpires, after conferring with the review official, found that Posey had not done anything wrong, and the out call was upheld. The White Sox ended up winning anyway, and it seemed like no harm, no foul.

Then on Wednesday, with the White Sox up by a run, the situation was reversed, as the White Sox gunned Gregor Blanco down at home in the seventh inning with Tyler Flowers setting up in a similar position:

In fairness, it appeared as though Posey didn't obstruct the baseline until after he had the ball, while Flowers planted himself in the way prior to receiving the throw from Jose Abreu. That said, this subtle distinction was, perhaps understandably, lost on Sox manager Robin Ventura, who proceeded to treat fans with an ineffectual, old-school freak out. The Giants would go on to score seven unanswered runs and turn the game into a laugher.

All of which brings us at last to The Hawk. Harrelson, as you'd expect given his style and history, was as outraged as Ventura. After seething for a few minutes, he complained about the rule that was designed to prevent catchers in a helpless position from breaking their legs, collarbones, and heads, saying "This rule is B.S., that's what it is. Pure, simple B.S. It's not baseball.... Next thing you know we'll have catchers wearing skirts out there." That's almost funny coming from the announcer for a franchise that once made its players play in hot pants.

Look, can we skip past the part where Hawk complains that bone-jarring collisions are quintessentially part of what baseball is, and get straight to the skirts comment? Thanks. I know that Hawk is 72, and belongs to a generation where casual misogyny wasn't just encouraged, it was mandatory. I also understand that baseball's typical fans skew older. To them, this probably isn't a big deal. To me, and I hope to you, it is.

When you boil it down, Hawk is essentially saying that girls, and anyone who would act like them, aren't tough enough to play ball. Which, frankly, is the real B.S. here. I was just down at SABR in Houston, where I sat in on a panel discussion with Marie "Red" Mahoney, an 89-year old Houstonian who played two seasons in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League for the South Bend Blue Sox and the Fort Wayne Daisies in the 1940s. Red spoke at length about long bus rides and of playing, yes, in a skirt. Meanwhile, at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Mo'Ne Davis is pitching 70 mile per hour fastballs past 13 year old boys from around the United States. Now, she is not wearing a skirt like Mahoney, but she is making the sport a lot tougher, at least for everyone holding a bat.

I want to believe that Hawk's sexism, and the equally sexist things uttered by David Ortiz and Brad Ausmus earlier this year, would have always bothered me. I want to believe that I'm better than I am. The truth is that, while I may have recognized the inherent misogyny in their statements, I probably wouldn't have thought to say anything until I had a daughter almost three years ago. As cliché as it is to say it, being a parent changes you, and makes you more aware of how the world is speaking to these young people you are trying to raise into good, strong human beings. Like most dads, I want my daughter to feel like she can do anything, and that nothing will limit her aside from her own interests and abilities. I don't want the Hawk Harrelsons of the world implying that she can't play ball, or do anything else, because sometimes she wears an adorable pink skirt with Hello Kitty on it, and I sure as hell don't want them to stain something as fun and beautiful as baseball with the tobacco juice of their sexist hang-ups. If girls don't want to play ball, that's fine, but if they want to and think they can't because girls aren't as good/tough/whatever as boys, that's just damn wrong.

So here's what I'm going to do, White Sox. I'm not going to watch. I'm not going to take the chance that your broadcast team is going to tell my daughter she isn't as tough or as smart or as strong as her brother. We will watch other games and other broadcast teams. We will sacrifice folksiness for not being a misogynist jerk and alienating 40-50 percent of the fans who watch baseball. This sport has a growing problem with how it speaks to women. If the White Sox let Hawk and his ilk continue to denigrate them and do nothing to address the problem, they are gradually going to lose them all. Just like they lost us.