'Ed Farmer was a character': Friends remember longtime Sox broadcaster, former reliever
Ed Farmer, the White Sox's radio voice for the last 29 years and a former all-star relief pitcher, passed away Wednesday night in a Los Angeles-area hospital of complications from a previous illness.
He was 70 years old.
"My heart is broken, but my mind is at peace knowing my dear friend is no longer suffering," said Darrin Jackson, Farmer's friend and radio partner since 2009.
In 1991, Farmer had a kidney transplant due to polycystic kidney disease.
He was in ill health at the end of last season, but Farmer was a fighter.
"The hard part is, I know what Ed's been dealing with, had been dealing with, him and his family, since last season," Jackson said late Thursday afternoon. "And I know how hard he worked to be prepared for this year. He was strong, he was coming back. We did a game this spring and I was blown away with how strong he was compared to last year.
"I couldn't believe it and I told him that. As we parted at the airport just a month ago, or less, I couldn't believe how far he had come from some of the things he had been dealing with throughout the off-season. I thought he was on the comeback trail only to have an unfortunate setback that he just couldn't beat.
"It just goes to show you that it took something amazing to knock him down and keep him down. I could never, ever keep up with him. I didn't even try. For him to not be here now is obviously quite surprising and overwhelming.
"My heart goes out to (wife) Barbara and (daughter) Shanda, the only people he loved more than the White Sox and his hometown of Chicago."
A native of Evergreen Park and graduate of St. Rita High School in Chicago, Farmer was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifth round of the 1967 amateur draft at the age of 17.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander made his major-league debut with the Indians in June 1971 at 21.
Farmer was 30-43 with a 4.30 ERA and 75 saves in 370 career major-league games with Cleveland (1971-73), Detroit (1973), Philadelphia (1974, 1982-83), Baltimore (1977), Milwaukee (1978), Texas (1979), the White Sox (1979-81) and Oakland (1983).
"His career, when he pitched, that was the one thing that didn't always add up for me," former Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said Thursday on a conference call. "He was known as a tough, rugged guy, a real gritty reliever, but that wasn't the guy we knew."
Farmer made the American League all-star team with the Sox in 1980, finishing third in baseball with 30 saves (a franchise record at the time).
"His experience as a major-league all-star pitcher, his wry sense of clubhouse humor, his love of baseball and his passion for the White Sox combined to make White Sox radio broadcasts the sound of summer for millions of fans," Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "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. I am truly devastated by the loss of my friend."
Farmer joined the White Sox radio booth on a part-time basis in 1991 and took over full-time analyst duties the following year alongside play-by-play broadcaster John Rooney.
Farmer and Rooney worked together from 1992-2005, and the duo was named the best radio team in the American League by USAToday.com in 2004.
Farmer became the Sox play-by-play voice in 2006 where he worked with former White Sox outfielder Chris Singleton for two seasons and current TV analyst Steve Stone in 2008 before teaming with Jackson in 2009.
"His job, especially on the radio side, he had to describe everything," said former Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, now a national baseball broadcaster on FOX. "(Farmer) and D.J. did a great job for a long time describing what was happening on White Sox games. And a lot of people would turn off the sound to listen to those two just because of the joy they brought. And he was himself.
"Ed Farmer was a character, he was one of a kind, he was always himself and he was true to himself."
Farmer was a longtime advocate and supporter of organ and tissue donation after undergoing the kidney transplant.
He made an annual appearance with Secretary of State Jesse White at the James R. Thompson Center to raise awareness and promote the need for organ and tissue donation in Illinois.
"We have lost an extraordinary person with the passing of Chicago White Sox radio announcer Ed Farmer, and I have lost a dear friend," White said in a statement. "I was proud to partner with Ed on organ/tissue donation awareness and saw firsthand his passion and commitment to this lifesaving program. As a kidney recipient, he dedicated himself to giving back to the program that extended his life for nearly 30 years."
Farmer previously served on the board of directors of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Research Foundation and testified before the U.S. House of Representatives about the disease in 1995. He also actively supported the state of Illinois organ donor program, Donate Life Illinois (donatelifeillinois.org).