A season of Hawk Harrelson superlatives

Adam Rosales appears on this list twice. - Jonathan Daniel

The venerable White Sox broadcaster placed more than 100 possibly venerable titles on players and teams throughout the season

"It's hard to say anyone is the best."

Hawk Harrelson said that sentence -- or a derivation thereof -- a handful of times over the course of the season. Meanwhile (as Hawk might say), he spent the entire season disproving that very idea.

While the Ford A. Frick Award finalist is known for his catch phrases and homerism around baseball, his most locally appreciated trait is his tendency to tag players and teams with superlatives. He's Banksy with historical identifiers.

After hearing one game with a number of "bests" and other adjectives ending in "-est" during a game in mid-May, I started logging as many specific superlatives as I could hear. Over the course of the season, many others (BuehrleMan, MarketMaker, Trooper, Uribe Down, 3E8, Steve_p and Mark among them) also conditioned themselves to pick up keywords.

Some of these titles are generally agreed upon by baseball fans. Others need a moment of consideration, but ultimately make sense. And then he drops some onion-like labels that require quite a bit of peeling -- a player who is the best at performing one very particular skill of one facet of the game over a specific time frame. Harrelson has already declared him the tops before you even thought of thinking about it. It gets kind of ridiculous, but it's good, harmless fun in the end, and sometimes serves as discussion fodder, too.

I counted clear superlatives, as well as qualifiers like "one of," "might be," "arguably" and others. In most cases, Harrelson didn't provide an alternative, and some categories were so hard to unravel that nobody else could do it themselves.

After eliminating some and combining others, we ended up tallying 122 Hawk Harrelson superlatives over the last 4½ months of White Sox broadcasts. I've grouped them into categories with notes when warranted.

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Hitting (42)

One of the best approaches to the pitch in all of baseball: Jose Bautista

One of the greatest approaches in creating hang time in all of baseball: Jose Bautista

The best top hands in all of baseball: Adrian Beltre, Julio Franco, Yan Gomes, Adam Rosales, Gary Sheffield

(All of these players received "one-of" praise over the course of the season. Beltre, Franco and Sheffield are renowned for their vicious cuts and line drives. Gomes seems premature, but had a good year. Adam Rosales was DFA'd roughly 38 times in three weeks this season.)

One of the best in the league at hitting good pitching well: Billy Butler

In Hawk's top five for hitting the ball hard: Billy Butler

The smartest right-handed hitters over the last 40 years: Miguel Cabrera, Manny Ramirez and Frank Thomas

The world's best hitter, and might be the best one we have ever seen before it's over: Miguel Cabrera

Only fearless player at the plate: Tony Conigliaro

Possibly the most good under-the-radar hitter in the major leagues: Allen Craig

("Good" would seem to be assumed in any "under-the-radar" conversation.)

More hits -- on a guy who has had a shift implemented against him -- taken away than any hitter Hawk has ever seen: Adam Dunn

Had some of the best plate coverage against the Sox: Alcides Escobar

The fastest a ball has been hit to right field by a right-handed hitter this season: Courtesy of Dayan Viciedo

Hardest-hit line drives to right-center: Julio Franco

Hit one of the longest home runs he has ever seen hit to left-center since Progressive Field was built: Avisail Garcia

Most short-and-quick swing from a left-handed White Sox hitter: Conor Gillaspie

Hits more balls off his feet and legs than anyone in the league: Alejandro De Aza

Greatest first-ball fastball hitter we have ever seen: Vladimir Guerrero

Best offensive player Hawk has ever seen: Rickey Henderson

Quickest home run trot: Adam Rosales

(This one is scientifically proven. Before Rosales, Harrelson said Frank Howard was the quickest.)

Hit the ball farther to right field than any right-handed hitter: Bo Jackson

Hit the ball farther to left field than any left-handed hitter: Jim Thome

Fastest right-handed hitter down the line: Bo Jackson

Fastest left-handed hitter down the line: Mickey Mantle

One of the greatest inside-out strokes ever: Derek Jeter

One of the best fastball hitters of the last 25 years: Paul Konerko

Best two-strike bunter: Mickey Mantle

One of the best fastball hitters over the last 30 years: Graig Nettles

(Theoretically, that means Nettles is better than Konerko if you can extend him back into history farther.)

Best breaking ball hitter Hawk ever saw: Tony Oliva

Best 7-8-9 inning hitters: David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez

Best 3-4 combination Hawk has ever seen: David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez

Best high fastball hitter in the American League today: Dustin Pedroia

One of the best inside fastball hitters of the last 30 years: Ryne Sandberg.

One of the greatest fastball hitters in the history of baseball: Gary Sheffield

(So this beats Konerko and Nettles, theoretically.)

Biggest drifter: Ichiro Suzuki

(Not that kind of drifter.)

Biggest strike zones: Kirby Puckett and Yogi Berra

(Steve Stone started the conversation by mentioning Berra. Hawk, after mentioning Puckett, agreed.)

Best looking 19-year-old position player the White Sox have ever had: Ryan Sweeney.

One of the most deceiving guys you'll ever see from our venue: Mike Trout

(He was talking about how Trout is bigger in person than he seems from the broadcast booth.)

Liveliest bats in the American League: Dayan Viciedo and Yoenis Cespedes.

One of the best in the league at hitting the ball to the right side: Michael Young

One of the best Hawk has ever seen, first baseman holding somebody on, hook it in that hole over there: Omar Vizquel

(Or "pulling it through the hole on the right side with a runner on.")

Hardest line drives: Dave Winfield

(Take that, Julio Franco.)

Best clutch hitter: Carl Yazstrzemski

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Pitching (21)

Best right-handed changeup motion all year: Clay Buchholz

Probably had some of the worst stuff -- if not THE worst stuff -- of any starter in the American League: Mark Buehrle

Works the ball better than anybody else in this league: Bartolo Colon

Hardest thrower: Steve Dalkowski

Hardest he's ever seen anybody throw from down there: Ron Davis

(Referring to sidewinders. He claimed Davis could hit triple digits, which seems doubtful.)

Best right-handed pitcher coming into the game: Dwight Gooden

Best splitter Hawk has ever seen: Bryan Harvey

Arguably the best six-year stretch any pitcher has ever had. Sandy Koufax

One of the best mindsets Hawk has ever seen in his time in baseball: Pedro Martinez

The best four pitches Hawk has ever seen one guy have: Sam McDowell

Best Hawk ever saw in the minor leagues: Joe Moeller

(It looks they crossed paths in the PCL for half a season.)

Possibly the best pickoff move Hawk has ever seen to first base: Fred Norman

(Revised -- originally wrote "right-handed," but Norman is a lefty. Went back to the tape, and "right-handed" wasn't part of that one.)

One of the greatest curveballs in the history of the game: Camile Pasqual

Probably played with the hitters' minds more than any other pitcher in the last 50 years: Gaylord Perry

One of the best pickoff moves of the last 25 years: Andy Pettitte.

Greatest relief pitcher of all time: Mariano Rivera

(Also counts for Hawk calling Rivera "the greatest at what he does," which he did on multiple occasions.)

Possibly the best release of any pitcher in the American League: Danny Salazar

Livest arm in the American League: Danny Salazar

Made Joe Mauer have his worst at-bat ever: Chris Sale

Moving-est changeup since Strasburg's a couple years ago: Anibal Sanchez

Best knuckleball of the last 50 years: Hoyt Wilhelm

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Defense (16)

Strongest arms from underneath: Adrian Beltre and Jayson Nix.

(Originally, he called Beltre the "strongest arm from underneath." Later on, he said Nix was "one of the two best throwers from down below." This seems to be the way to reconcile that.)

One of the best center fielders the game has ever seen: Jim Edmonds

Best Hawk has ever seen at blocking the plate: Bill Freehan

Probably the best in this league at staying with low line drives: Alex Gordon

One of the best at taking a hit turning two: Bobby Grich

Best Hawk ever saw at getting an angle in right field: Dwight Evans

Smoothest he's ever seen in center field: Ken Griffey Jr.

The best in the American League at taking plays to first base themselves rather than waiting for the pitcher to get over there: Eric Hosmer and Mark Teixeira

(He said this about Hosmer two separate times.)

Made the best play he's ever seen at shortstop on that type of hit ball: Jose Iglesias

(Referring to this play.)

Made the best play he's ever seen at second on that type of hit ball: Tadahito Iguchi

(Referring to this play.)

Best you'll see at catching pop-ups: Paul Konerko

One of the best you'll ever see, on rockets, staying in front of them: Paul Konerko

(Best way to praise a guy's lack of lateral movement?)

Best at planting and throwing: Alexei Ramirez

Worst injury Hawk has ever seen on a pitcher covering first: Tim Hudson

Best defensive infield Hawk has ever seen: The early-2000s Minnesota Twins.

Best left fielder: Carl Yazstrzemski

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History! (20)

Running-est pitching staff in baseball: The 1967 White Sox.

(Meaning they ran/jogged between starts more than any other staff.)

Best chemistry of any team Hawk has ever seen: 1983 White Sox

Best team Hawk has ever seen at breaking up the double play: 1983 White Sox

Worst injuries suffered by a team: 2011 Minnesota Twins

Most under-the-radar player of the last 50 years: Bobby Abreu

The greatest second baseman in the game (arguably): Roberto Alomar

One of the best White Sox debuts in a long, long time: Wilson Alvarez.

(Alvarez threw a no-hitter in his White Sox debut. I don't think this one needs to be double-qualified with both "one of" and "in a long, long time.")

Hawk's favorite all-time player: George Brett

One of the most underrated players in major league history: Jim Edmonds.

(Don't know if "under-the-radar" beats "underrated.")

Built the best offensive ballclub he's ever seen: John Hart.

Strongest man he's ever seen in the game of baseball: Frank Howard

Dumbest deal in the history of baseball: The one Juan Gonzalez turned down from the Tigers

Greatest athlete baseball has ever seen: Bo Jackson

Possibly the best manager ever: Tony La Russa

Greatest GM in the history of the game: John Schuerholz

Greatest GM-manager tandem: John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox

Hardest thing for a GM to do: Build and maintain a bullpen

Biggest change in the last 50 years: It's become a battle of bullpens

Best commissioner of the seven Hawk has been through: Bud Selig

Best catcher Hawk ever played against: Bill Freehan

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Miscellaneous (20)

Most fun players to watch: Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera

One of the best names in baseball: Emilio Bonifacio

Best ambassador of our lifetime: Derek Jeter

Most flexible body: Tony Fernandez

("Like a wet noodle.")

Possibly the best baseball person who's not managing a major-league ballclub: Jim Fregosi

Greatest cliche ever towards the game of baseball: "It's a game of inches."

The best five-tool player we have had in a long time: Avisail Garcia

Prettiest player: Ken Griffey Jr.

Toughest uniformed job in baseball: Hitting coach

Harder on himself than maybe Hawk has ever seen anybody: Paul Konerko

(Actual language: "He was harder on himself than maybe I’ve ever seen anybody. Maybe I’ve seen some guys as hard on themselves as him, but not anybody harder.")

May have as much baseball sense as anyone in the game based on what we've seen: Jose Iglesias.

(Potentially the most premature superlative since all the ones he laid on Jerry Sands four years back.)

Toughest travel schedule in sports: Seattle Mariners

Best autograph signer: Arnold Palmer.

Best baseball player autograph signer: Cal Ripken Jr.

You might tie him, but you won't beat him for his love for the game: Tony Pena

One of the greatest guys Hawk has ever known in this game: Tony Perez

(Two months later, Harrelson also identified Perez as "one of the nicest people." I'm inclined to count this as a duplicate.)

One of the classiest things Hawk has ever seen in his entire career: Mariano Rivera's farewell tour

Most emotional moment on the field: Mickey Mantle's last game

Scariest thing Hawk has ever seen: Ray Durham collapsing in the Metrodome

(This was back in 2000; read about it here.)

Most charismatic athlete: Ted Williams. Speaking of...

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Bonus (1)

The best stuff Ted Williams ever saw: Herb Score

I don't think we need second-hand superlatives to pad the stats, but given the esteem in which Harrelson holds Williams, I think it's OK to apply it forward.

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Specific to the 2013 White Sox (2)

May these never be topped.

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