It took some doing, but the Hawk finally turned into an Indian and now his thing is more like an obsession. “What I want to do right now is helpt this team win, and get some people out to the ball park. We’ve got a good club – now,” said the 27-year-old slugger whose trade to the Tribe shocked all of the baseball world, but mainly Harrelson himself. At first reluctant to report, Harrelson changed his mind after receiving a new contract that extends through 1970 and, well, call it a “pep” talk from Commissioner Bowie Kuhn who told Harrelson that baseball “needs” the Hawk.
At the minute he arrived in Cleveland, leading like a Pied Piper a gang of teenyboppers through the lobby of Hopkins International Airport, baseball’s super-hipster was ready to swing for the man he calls “a second father to me,” Indians’ Manager Alvin Dark. After being met at the airport by upwards of 1,000 young fans, including a rock band and several girls who presented him with flowers, Hawk insisted that everything would be groovy from that moment on.
“I had nothing against Cleveland or the Indians,” insisted Harrelson, fairly growing in his western-style mod outfit complete with white boots. “I would have felt the same if I’d been traded to New York or any other club. I just didn’t want to leave Boston.” Then Commissioner Kuhn made a pitch. “He’s some kind of salesman,” said The Hawk. “But because of Kuhn’s presentation, I know that if I do my thing here, it’ll open up a whole new area for me. I realize – now – that I can be as big in the Midwest as I am in the Northeast part of the country.” Harrelson will be roommates with his old friend, Duke Sims, who nicknamed Harrelson as “The Hawk” when the played in the Eastern League in 1962. “How did I start calling him ‘Hawk’?” Sims repeated a reporter’s question. “Take a look at that nose…What else but Hawk?”
Harrelson singled in his first at-bat as an Indian in a 4-1 win over the Yankees, but has been hitless in the following seven plate appearances. Dark, who managed Harrelson with the Kansas City Athletics, remained confident in his new slugger. “Kenny is the type of player and person who an turn everything around for us,” said the manager. “I know him as well as anyone does and I know what kind of a job he can do.”