Head above the crowd is Haywood Sullivan, president of the Red Sox. He was Boston's director of player personnel in '67 when he offered the Hawk a contract after Finley had released him. The Red Sox ended up giving Harrelson $150,000, a princely sum back then, to win a bidding war that presaged the era of free agency.
Wandering around the premises is Duke Sims, former catcher and an old friend of Harrelson's. When the Hawk finally assented to the trade in '69, Sims was the player he asked to meet him at Cleveland's Hopkins Airport. "I remember the time the Hawk entered the Northern Ohio Long-Driving Contest," says Sims. "Everybody's waiting for him, when all of a sudden this helicopter shows up. The Hawk gets out, takes one swing, wins the contest and then takes off in the helicopter."
On this Monday morning, the Hawk does not make an entrance quite so dramatic, but it's an entrance nonetheless. He's wearing his blue ensemble: Busch racing jacket, teal-blue pants, white feathered cowboy hat and blue elephant-hide boots, "uncomfortable but worth the pain." He works the crowd well with a lot of "big guys" and shoulder-grabbing. If the Hawk is any hawk at all, he is an osprey, or fish hawk, a bird John James Audubon once described as being "social and gregarious." He collars John Schuerholz, the Kansas City G.M., and tells him, "When I was a ballplayer, Mickey Mantle was my idol. Now that I'm an executive, you are my idol."
On this day, operating out of Rooms 1215 and 1216 at the Town and Country, he talks trades with the Yankees, Braves, Red Sox, Brewers, Cubs and Dodgers. Since the World Series, the White Sox and Yankees have been trying to put together a deal, a package that would send pitcher Britt Burns and catcher Carlton Fisk to New York for pitcher Joe Cowley, DH Don Baylor and catcher Ron Hassey.
A Seaver deal is also in the works, with the Brewers and Red Sox involved. In addition, the Braves want both pitcher Bruce Tanner and catcher Joel Skinner from the White Sox to reunite them with their fathers, new manager Chuck Tanner and new coach Bob Skinner. "If we don't give them up, the Child Abuse Society may come after us," says the Hawk.
After a cocktail reception for the White Sox personnel, Harrelson dines with Drysdale and California manager Gene Mauch. Then he and the Big D go back to Room 1216 to iron out the details of Drysdale's consultant contract. They stay up all night, alternately talking, screaming and laughing. "Boy, I'd like to have a tape of that," Harrelson would say later. "There we were, 3:30 in the morning, nose to nose, exchanging philosophies, shall we say."
Functioning on two hours' sleep, the Hawk emerges Tuesday morning slightly subdued. He chooses a brown theme: a dark brown Members Only jacket, beige slacks and light brown boots. The boots, he says, were made of "bo-a"; the way he draws it out, he brings to mind not the constrictor but rather the hide of a little shortstop. The outfit is topped by a wonderful white floppy motorman's cap.
Harrelson spends a lot of time talking with La Russa. When he first took the G.M. job, Harrelson raised some eyebrows by saying he thought La Russa was the second-best manager in the league, next to Billy Martin. Then Harrelson fired minor league manager John Boles, whom La Russa had suggested for third-base coach, and hired former Ranger manager Doug Rader, a La Russa antagonist who coined the term "winning ugly." The perception in baseball circles is that La Russa is a manager in trouble.
Actually, the two get along quite nicely. "We're on the same wavelength," says La Russa, "and a wavelength goes up and down, right? So we're going to have our ups and downs. But we both want the same things for this club." La Russa and Harrelson go way back to 1962 and the A's farm team in Binghamton, N.Y. La Russa recalls, "When I arrived, I was 17 and the Hawk was having a tremendous year [38 homers, 138 RBIs in 140 games]. We used to go to Red's Kettle Inn after the games, and I remember Hawk at the head of the table, big as King Kong."
On this day, though, the Hawk is feeling rather small. The Yankee trade is still up in the air. Harrelson wants to accommodate Tanner, but the Braves want to stick the White Sox with Bruce Benedict, their overpaid catcher. And the three-way deal with Boston and Milwaukee falls through when the Red Sox balk at giving up pitcher Bob Stanley to get Seaver. By 7:30 p.m., Harrelson is in Room 1216 in pajamas. When members of the White Sox party, thinking the pajamas are their signal to leave, get up to go, Harrelson tells them, "No, no, these are just my thinking clothes."