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Longtime White Sox broadcaster and former pitcher Ed Farmer dies

White Sox broadcaster Ed Farmer, who grew up on the South Side and pitched in the major leagues for 11 seasons before embarking on a 28-year broadcasting career, died Wednesday night.

Longtime White Sox broadcaster Ed Farmer died Wednesday.
Longtime White Sox broadcaster Ed Farmer died Wednesday.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Ed Farmer, a true South Sider who grew up at 79th and Francisco, pitched for the White Sox and was a Sox radio broadcaster for 28 years, died Wednesday night in a Los Angeles area hospital near his home in Calabasas, Calif., of complications from a previous illness, the Sox announced Thursday.

Farmer, 70, was the Sox’ play by play voice the last 14 seasons after 14 years in the booth as color commentator alongside John Rooney from 1992 to 2005.

A graduate of St. Rita High School who voiced great pride in his Chicago roots, Farmer pitched for Sox, Indians, Tigers, Phillies, Orioles, Brewers, Rangers and Athletics but enjoyed some of his best seasons with the Sox from 1979-81, recording 30 of his 75 career saves in 1980 and making the American League All-Star team that year. Farmer compiled a 4.30 ERA over 370 games during his career, all but 21 games coming in relief.

In the years between his playing and broadcast days, Farmer was a major league scout for the Orioles from 1988-90 and served as a special assistant to Sox general manager Ron Schueler in 1991.

“Ed Farmer was the radio voice of the Chicago White Sox for three decades, and he called no-hitters, perfect games and of course, a World Series championship,” Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “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. 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 pitched with an edge and competitive drive that belied his hospitable manner off the field. His radio booth – at home games and away --- was often filled with guests of a man who was generous with his time. Reactions to Farmer’s passing Thursday were characterized by stories of Farmer’s willingness to chat and give his time and encouraging words to fans, players, stadium workers and media.

“My heart is broken, but my mind is at peace knowing my dear friend is no longer suffering,” said Darrin Jackson, Farmer’s radio partner of 11 seasons. “Ed was a competitor who also was everyone’s best friend. I saw first-hand how hard Ed fought each and every day and season after season to keep himself healthy and prepared to broadcast White Sox baseball. I first got to know Ed during my time in Chicago as a player and am honored to have been his friend and radio partner. 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.”

As part of the Sox’ traveling team interacting with players in clubhouses and on flights, Farmer “was just kind of like a staple in the scenery of the White Sox,” Sox great Paul Konerko said Thursday.

Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, on a conference call Thursday, said they will remember Farmer always talking about how good his big curveball was, and that guy who would pull strings and do favors.

“Eddie knew everybody,” Konerko said. “In the golfing world, athletic world, college football and all that — he just had many connections, and his reach was deep and far with a lot of different things. And he always tried to spread the wealth on that. Every time we went somewhere and he could help, take you to something, bring you to something or expose you to something that you otherwise would never have a chance to do, he tried to bring everybody in on that. Now, the great part was that he would remind you almost every day for the rest of your life that he did it, which was awesome.”

Pierzynski said Farmer got him on Air Force One, into a Secret Service training facility and on Augusta National Golf Club.

“And three years later, he’d go, ‘Remember that time you played Augusta National? Well, that’s because I’m Ed Farmer and you’re not.’ That was just Ed Farmer.”

Throughout his broadcast years, Farmer engaged in typical clubhouse razzing with players.

“He could take it, and he could give it out,” Pierzynski said.

With his health failing him, Farmer wasn’t always in his best voice last season, and he was replaced on 720-AM broadcasts by Andy Masur for about 30 games. Farmer was afflicted with polycystic kidney disease, which claimed the life his mother, Marilyn, when he was 17. He received a kidney transplant from his brother in 1991, and in 1995 appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives to testify about the disease. He also worked with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to bring awareness to the state’s organ donation program.

White called Farmer “a hero.”

“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. “I was proud to partner with Ed on organ/tissue donation awareness and saw first-hand 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.”

Donations may be made in Farmer’s name to the Polycystic Kidney Disease Research Foundation (http://support.pkdcure.org).