Chicago White Sox play-by-play announcer Hawk Harrelson is from another era, something that either endears him to fans or grates on peoples' nerves. It seems, on the modern baseball web, it's definitely more of the second.
It's one thing for Harrelson to thumb his nose at advanced statistics, but it's another thing entirely for him to pepper his broadcasts with racial and ethnic stereotypes. On at least three occasions this season that's happened when Harrelson's talked about Asians.
Harrelson, 72, has had plenty of opportunity to talk about Asian pitchers this week as the White Sox played the Boston Red Sox. Two of Boston's go-to relievers are Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara of Japan. And, not surprisingly, Harrelson's slipped back in time 30 years and called Tazawa "Oriental" twice.
This came amid the Red Sox-White Sox game Thursday:
The video at the top is from Wednesday, when Harrelson actually says "Asian" first, then corrects himself to "Oriental." While Oriental isn't atop the Ways You Shouldn't Refer to Ethnic Groups list, it's present on said list. Asian is the preferred term and has been for some time. To boil down the rule: Oriental refers to items and Asian refers to people.
Again, some of this can be attributed to Harrelson coming of age in an era in which it wasn't wrong to say "Oriental." But his problem seems to go beyond the type of word confusion you'd allow for someone born in 1941. Harrelson was criticized in April for saying Cleveland Indians pitcher Chen-Chang Lee has a "typical Asian motion [with] deception involved."
Here's an exchange from Wednesday (as captured in the video above) between Harrelson and broadcast mate Steve Stone:
Harrelson: Well, most of your Asian — Oriental — pitchers have something funky in their windups.
Stone: Usually, it’s a hesitation. And with Tazawa ...
Harrelson: It’s someplace in there.
Stone: … He’s no exception to that. And so, just as you try to time him to get your rhythm, that little hesitation makes him more deceptive.
Harrelson: I think it’s terrific.
Do some Asian pitchers have non-traditional wind-ups and deliveries? Of course. But many pitchers in MLB — regardless of where they were reared — employ deception in what they do. In fact, some of the more dominant pitchers do. Clayton Kershaw or Tim Lincecum, for example.
Heck, Harrelson needs only to look at White Sox ace Chris Sale as a pitcher whose delivery and arm slot help him deceive hitters. He's one of the toughest pitchers to hit in baseball, and Harrelson gets to see him throw regularly.
It would seem silly if Harrelson started lumping all tall pitchers together (Sale is 6-foot-6) or all mustached pitchers (Lincecum had the 'stache during his recent no-hitter) or all pitchers from Texas (where Kershaw is from).
It's about 100 times worse to start making generalizations based on race. Your 72-year-old uncle who sits around the dinner table talking about baseball might not know better, but Hawk Harrelson should.
BLS H/N: Hall of Very Good
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