Back in his playing days he was controversial & outspoken as well. He wore hip flashy colorful clothing of the late sixties, something ball players were not doing yet. Although he was not the first player to use one, he is credited with bringing the batting clove back to the game in his era. He wore a golf glove while batting.
He began his career with the Kansas City A's as one of the teams first star players, he left in 1966 but was brought back by popular demand the next year. His time in Kansas City ended when he allegedly called owner Charley Finley " a menace to baseball". Finley moved the A's to Oakland & would win three straight World Series in the early seventies.
Harrelson would go on to he Boston Red Sox in their 1967 Impossible Dream season & win the A.L. pennant with them, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. In 1968 he led the AL in RBIs (109) & had his best season. Shockingly he was traded to Cleveland the next year, at first he retired to veto the trade but did come back to play with the Indians. An injury led him to retire in 1971 at age 30.
But back in 1966 he was sent to the Washington Senators in mid season & would spend part of the 1967 season there as well. At that time, Gil Hodges was manager of the Senators. Hodges was a stern disciplinarian, a strict rule enforcer, a conservative man who took the game very seriously. Ken Hawk Harrelson did not get along with his manger Gil Hodges.
By 1969, Gil Hodges was in New York trying to win the NL East in Miracle fashion, that summer, Harrelson released his autobiography, while he was playing on a poor Indians team that would lose 97 games. In his book he was one of the only people to ever say anything negative about Hodges. Hawk, trashed Hodges, calling him " a Jekyll & Hyde"-"unfair, unreasonable, unfeeling, incapable of handling men, stubborn, Hoilier than thou, & ice cold".
During one losing game in Washington, Harrelson suggested to the manager that he start a fight to get the team to pull together. Hodges refused telling him " that shows something about the kind of person you are". Another time, Hodges benched Harrelson because his hair was too long, telling him he'll play when he gets it cut. Harrelson got it cut in the locker room by a teammate & was inserted in the line up.
Quotes- Gil Hodges: In reference to love beads, which Harrelson did wear, "maybe the players would be better off with Rosary beads instead of love beads".
When the book came out, Hodges Mets team stuck up for him immediately. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Ron Swoboda & Ed Charles were the most indignant.
Quotes- Tom Seaver told the Daily News: " That doesn't seem like the manager I know. Mr. Hodges treats his players with an attitude of professionalism. Maybe Mr. Harrelson in his immaturity couldn't tell the difference between professionalism treatment & someone picking on him."
Jerry Koosman who said he was shocked to read that article, noted it was probably a publicity stunt to sell more books, adding he just lost one sale on him.
The Manager who was upset at the distraction surrounding his club, said he did not wish to comment at this time. He was chasing a pennant in the second half of the season.