So the next day,
instead of going to Atlanta to play golf with Paul Richards, I went to Boston
to play baseball with the Red Sox.
When I first
joined the Red Sox in late August, I thought of the change only in technical
baseball terms. But the Red Sox weren't just the Boston Red Sox. They were the
New England Red Sox, with fans all the way from the Maritime Provinces of
Canada to Hartford, Conn. I hadn't played before sellout crowds more than half
a dozen times in my life. Now I played before them almost every day. It was
exciting and so was the pennant race, with four teams in it right up to the
last week. I felt the pressure and was pretty nervous all through that crazy
stretch drive, but I loved every minute of it. And Boston made me. In Kansas
City I was Harrelson the first baseman who sometimes went on batting sprees,
wore long hair and unconventional clothes. The thing was, the only people who
knew or gave a hoot were in Kansas City. Suddenly I had charisma and I didn't
even know what that meant. But after eight months in Boston I did. In Boston I
had made it as a commodity, the "Hawk."
To tell the truth,
though, I tried too hard in those last weeks of the '67 season. In 23 games I
drove in 14 runs, almost all in big games, but the rest—particularly Carl
Yastrzemski—were really winning the pennant for Boston.
I had a poor
Series, getting only one hit in four games, and my future with the Red Sox in
1968 was very doubtful. It remained so through the '68 spring training season.
I didn't start the season in right, but soon I was playing there regularly.
Then I started hammering the ball again. I hit home runs, I drove in runs in
bunches, I hit for average, I did it all. I was having the time of my life,
both on and off the field. And learning—learning new things about baseball and
about myself simply through the things that happened almost every day. I talked
more baseball than I ever had before and with more people who knew more than I
did. That's why I'll never forget 1968. The only bad thing about it was that we
didn't win the pennant.
I had the world by
the ears. Offers came pouring in—for business opportunities, for television
shows, for appearances here, there and everywhere. Nothing like that had ever
happened to me before. Now I had to have some expert help. I couldn't tell the
difference between a legitimate deal and a phony one. I finally went to
Yastrzemski. He was the only guy on the Red Sox who had been through anything
said, "what do I do about all those offers I'm getting?"
Woolf," he said.
Signing up with
Bob Woolf was the smartest thing I ever did. Woolf put me on an allowance,
invested my money in numerous Boston and national enterprises and made me
something of a Boston institution.
I had a ball
through the winter of 1968-69. As the American League Player of the Year and
the league's RBI leader, I was showered with attention wherever I went. The
city of Savannah had a wonderful Hawk Harrelson Day, with honors for my mama,
parades and golf and parties and all sorts of other things. I had so many
offers that even Woolf went nuts sorting them out. I was richer, happier,
busier than I had ever been. The thought of ever leaving Boston never crossed
my mind. Then on Saturday. April 19, Alvin Dark, now managing the Indians,
phoned. He was all excited, happy as could be.
Hawk," he said. "Boy, am I glad to have you!"