We're so sad to learn about the passing of Ed Farmer. He was a kidney recipient and outspoken advocate for organ donation. He will be greatly missed.
Ed Farmer — a son of Chicago’s South Side who spent 2½ seasons pitching for the White Sox during an 11-year major-league career and, for almost 30 years, was a radio announcer for the team — died Wednesday night. He was 70.
Farmer, who was an advocate for organ donations, had dealt with kidney disease most of his life. The team said he died in a Los Angeles-area hospital of complications from a previous illness, but shared no more details.
A member of the 1980 American League All-Star team while with the Sox, Farmer had been a full-time radio announcer for the White Sox since 1992, first as an analyst and, beginning in 2006, as a play-by-play man.
“My heart is broken, but my mind is at peace knowing my dear friend is no longer suffering,” Darrin Jackson, Farmer’s broadcast partner for the last 11 seasons, said in a statement, calling Farmer “a competitor who also was everyone’s best friend.”
White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, in his own statement, noted how Farmer’s broadcast work played off his experience as a ballplayer, sense of humor, love of baseball and passion for the White Sox.
“Ed grew up a Sox fan on the South Side of Chicago and his allegiance showed every single night on the radio as he welcomed his ‘friends’ to the broadcast,” Reinsdorf said. “I am truly devastated by the loss of my friend.”
White Sox TV play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti, who called Farmer “a loyal, welcoming friend," tweeted that “scores of people have lost a piece of their heart, including me.”
Former White Sox pregame and postgame radio host Chris Rongey said, via Twitter, he had “never known anyone like him. Truly I haven’t. And there isn’t a chance on Earth I ever will again. Ed Farmer was generous. He cared about people. He was funny, often times on purpose.”
ESPN baseball reporter Buster Olney tweeted that Farmer “was incredibly funny, deeply knowledgeable, and intense in his love of baseball," while sportscaster Keith Olbermann noted Farmer “was also one of the best baseball broadcasters I’ve ever heard. No game I ever heard him do was boring or slow — even if he was complaining with a chuckle that it was boring or slow.”
Farmer was plagued for years with polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder in which cysts form in clusters mainly around kidneys, eventually keeping them from functioning properly.
The same condition claimed the life of his mother, Marilyn, when she was 38 and Farmer was 17, in his first year of minor-league baseball.
The kidney disease began to affect him toward the end of his playing career, which included stints with the Indians, Tigers, Phillies (twice), Orioles, Brewers and Rangers, concluding with the Athletics in 1983, although he continued to pitch in the minors through 1986.
Farmer received a transplanted kidney from a brother in the early 1990s and attempted to control his condition’s ill effects with medications, a regimen that at one time required as many as 56 pills daily.
At his peak, however, he could be scary on the mound.
In one memorable 1979 game for the Rangers, his first start in almost five years, he hit Royals leadoff man Frank White with the second pitch of the game, breaking White’s right thumb.
Then, in the fifth, a wild pitch by Farmer with runners on second and third enabled the Royals to tie the game, 7-7, bringing Al Cowens to the plate. Another tight fastball from Farmer broke Cowens’ jaw and some of his teeth. Cowens was taken off the field by stretcher.
“I have to believe he was looking for a breaking pitch,” Farmer said at the time. “He never moved.”
Farmer said he didn’t throw at White or Cowens on purpose.
“No, of course it wasn’t intentional,” Farmer said. Royals reliever Al “Hrabosky was yelling over there (in the bullpen), and I thought that was unfortunate. But, with their losing two key ballplayers, I can understand how they would feel that way. I’m sorry it happened.”
White agreed, suggesting Farmer “was just trying to be impressive” and overthrowing.
“I was lucky I got my hands up, or he would have hit me in the face, too,” White said.
Cowens was less forgiving.
The next season, with Farmer playing for the Sox and Cowens for the Tigers, Cowens came to bat against Farmer to lead off the top of the 11th inning.
Cowens hit a grounder to short. Farmer turned to watch the play. Cowens opted to make a beeline for the mound rather than run to first, tackled Farmer and began wailing on him, triggering a bench-clearing melee.
Farmer would file assault charges against Cowens that would prevent Cowens from joining the team on its next road trip to Chicago. Farmer agreed to drop the charges in return for a handshake.
Farmer would later say that, while on the bottom of a pile of players during the bench-clearing fracas, the weight on him burst the cysts on his kidneys and began to cause him health troubles.
“After that, I wasn’t strong anymore,” he said.
Edward Joseph Farmer was born at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park on Oct. 18, 1949, the second of nine children. His father, also named Edward, was an electrical contractor.
“I learned at an early age life was terminal,” Farmer, whose father died at 41, told the Tribune in 2017.
Farmer grew up on the South Side at 79th Street and Francisco Avenue. He was big for his age, more than 6-feet tall by age 11, on his way to becoming a hard-throwing 6-foot-5 right-hander who impressed scouts while still attending St. Rita High School as a pitcher and third baseman.
Dozens of schools, including Notre Dame and Arizona State, offered scholarships.
His father hoped he would go to Notre Dame and play football. But Farmer was drafted in the fifth round of the June 1967 amateur draft by the Indians, and his ailing mother believed he should take the $10,000 contract and pursue his dream of being a big-league ballplayer.
Farmer made his major-league debut with the Indians against the White Sox on June 9, 1971, striking out Tom Egan to cap a 3-1 victory.
The Indians traded him in 1973 to the Tigers. In 1974, he would be part of a three-player deal with the Indians and Yankees that included Walt Williams and Jim Perry that sent him to the Yankees, who promptly sold him to the Phillies.
Philadelphia eventually sent him back to the minor leagues and his career began to stall.
By 1976, he was out of the game and might have resigned himself to life without baseball if not for encouragement from his wife, Barbara. He was working in a warehouse in Southern California, which had become his offseason home and would be for the rest of his life.
While training in preparation for a tryout with an Orioles scout in 1977, Farmer was riding his bicycle when he was struck by a car, going through the windshield and losing his front teeth.
Farmer still impressed the scout and spent much of 1977 with the Orioles’ Triple-A team in Rochester, N.Y., making just one appearance with the major-league squad, a game in which he faced two batters. One walked. The other homered. The Orioles released him the following spring.
He had a hitch with the Brewers in ’78 and was with the Rangers in ’79 before landing with the White Sox later that season on the recommendation of Jerry Krause, then a Sox scout before becoming general manager of the Bulls, in a trade that sent Eric Soderholm to Texas.
Farmer racked up 30 saves for the Sox in ‘80. At that year’s All-Star Game, Farmer was a teammate of future fellow White Sox announcer Steve Stone, who was on his way to the 1980 Cy Young Award.
Stone started for the American League and threw three scoreless innings. Tommy John in relief gave up a home run in the fifth and, after three straight one-out singles, another in the sixth.
Farmer took over for John to face three batters. Future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield reached on an error, driving in the go-ahead run at 3-2. Keith Hernandez singled, and Pete Rose grounded into an inning-ending double play. The National League would win, 4-2.
With the Sox from mid-’79 to ‘81, Farmer was 13-19 with 54 saves and 3.31 ERA. He joined the Phillies as a free agent in 1982 and was released in August 1983, freeing him to sign with the A’s 10 days later to close out the season.
Over his major-league career, Farmer was 30-43, with 75 saves and a 4.30 ERA, appearing in 370 games.
Farmer was working for the Orioles as a scout when the White Sox asked if he would like to work a couple games on the radio. After a broadcast, he ran into Reinsdorf.
As Farmer recalled: “He goes, ‘Ed, can I talk to you for a second? If you want this job …’ I said, ‘Jerry, I appreciate it, but I work for the Orioles.’ ”
The White Sox subsequently hired Farmer in December 1990 as special assistant to general manager Ron Schueler.
Farmer began filling in regularly on the radio for John Rooney alongside Wayne Hagin in 1991 when Rooney was doing national broadcasts for CBS.
The next year Farmer replaced Hagin and, when Rooney left for the Cardinals after the White Sox’s 2005 World Series championship, Farmer slid into the play-by-play role alongside Chris Singleton, then Stone and most recently Jackson.
Farmer nearly lost his California home in the wildfires of late 2018.
“I’m lucky I’m alive. I’m lucky my family is alive,” he told the Daily Herald. “I’m not kidding. When we were evacuating and driving out on the 101 Freeway, there were flames on both sides.”
Farmer is survived by his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Shanda. The White Sox said donations may be made in Farmer’s name to the Polycystic Kidney Disease Research Foundation (support.pkdcure.org).