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HAWK: PART 2: I JUST COULDN'T BELIEVE MY EARS
Kenneth Harrelson
July 21, 1969
Twice shocked and hurt by abrupt dismissals, baseball's least-retiring folk hero lands not only on his feet but on top of a mad, mod world. First he peddles himself for $150,000 to the pennant-bound Red Sox, then swallows his pride—after certain financial adjustments—to join up with Cleveland, a city that meets him with roses, poetry and song
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July 21, 1969

Hawk: Part 2: I Just Couldn't Believe My Ears

Twice shocked and hurt by abrupt dismissals, baseball's least-retiring folk hero lands not only on his feet but on top of a mad, mod world. First he peddles himself for $150,000 to the pennant-bound Red Sox, then swallows his pride—after certain financial adjustments—to join up with Cleveland, a city that meets him with roses, poetry and song

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"That's not why I'm retiring," I said. "I'm not looking for anything from Cleveland. I have to play in Boston or I can't play anywhere."

"What happens to the deal?"

"I don't know," I said.

I was worried, unhappy, scared, hurt. I really didn't know what would happen to the deal. As soon as my retirement announcement came out, the Indians and the Red Sox agreed to freeze all the players involved until the situation was resolved. That meant five other guys—Siebert, Romo, Azcue, Ellsworth and Pizarro—couldn't play, even though all were in their new uniforms.

The next day I had a call from Gabe Paul, president of the Indians. He asked me to come to New York for a meeting at "21." Woolf and I went and met Gabe in the upstairs dining room. He was alone in a corner booth.

We talked for a long time about everything but me—basketball, Bobby's clients, our steaks, oldtime ballplayers. Gabe's career as a baseball executive. (He started as a shoeshine boy at the ball park in Rochester, N.Y., where he grew up.)

Gabe finally got around to the point. "Come to Cleveland, Hawk," he said. "Don't wreck this trade. You love baseball. Look how you'll hurt it if you don't play. Five other ballplayers, two ball clubs, a major trade hang on your decision to play or not to play. This situation has got to be resolved and you're the only one who can do it."

Bobby spent a long time showing Paul what it meant to me in dollars and cents to leave Boston. As Paul listened, then suggested nothing new, I started to get annoyed. All he said was he had never heard of a situation like this before and that I couldn't retire. You'd think that the whole structure of baseball was at stake. We didn't get anything resolved except the dinner check, which Paul paid. Woolf and I took a 2 a.m. plane back to Boston.

Tuesday morning when Woolf walked into his office at 10 there was a message to call Bowie Kuhn, the new baseball commissioner. Kuhn asked if he and I would come to his office for a meeting.

"Nuts," I said. "I don't want to talk to anybody. I've retired and I'm going to stay retired. I'm not going to New York or anywhere else."

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