Ed Farmer: The proudest South Sider

The longtime announcer's death on Thursday creates a hole that can't be filled

Good morning, frents

No two ways about it: Thursday was awful. Between losing Ed Farmer and several talented people losing their jobs at The Score, it was a rough day in Chicago media. I’m hopeful today will be better, though it’s a low bar to clear.

A sad day for the White Sox

Ed Farmer would’ve liked the tributes that poured in for him on Thursday.

From World Series winners to media members from all corners of Major League Baseball to Chicago radio lifers who worked his board, the longtime White Sox radio announcer and former pitcher was remembered by an eclectic group reflecting a life well lived.

The tragedy was that it was a life cut too short at the age of 70. Farmer died of complications of a lifelong hereditary kidney disease that ran in his family and one that required a life-saving transplant from his brother 30 years ago.

As I wrote on Twitter shortly after the team announced the sad news, there weren’t many people who loved the White Sox or the South Side more.

A proud son of St. Rita High School — the cross streets of 79th and Francisco are burned into the mind of anyone who ever listened to a Sox broadcast — Farmer was often the perfect avatar for the organization that Jerry Reinsdorf runs like a family.

Like the fans who wear “SOX” on their caps, he could be parochial and stubborn when arguing a loud opinion on the air. But Farmer’s other side was also always on display. He was generous and hard-working, fiercely loyal and outgoing. The type of guy at the tailgate to make sure you knew everyone else and that your drinking hand wasn’t empty.

Both sides of that description added up to make Farmio a real person to the fans on the other side of the radio, an actualization that doesn’t always take place in the industry.

Whenever Sox baseball returns, it’ll be weird to not have Farmer on the call any more. The relationship between a fan and longtime announcer is always built in the little moments. One afternoon, he’s the soundtrack as you clean the garage. On another night, he’s your bookmark for the game as you stand in line for churros or walk down the ramps at Sox Park to try for better seats in the 100 level. A voice like Farmer’s becomes so familiar that you only really notice when it’s no longer there.

The best announcers, though, are also remembered for their greatest calls and there’s no mistaking that Farmer’s is his call of Paul Konerko’s grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series.

"Swing and a long one to left! This is gonna go!  

“It's a slam, Sox lead 6-4. Light it up!"

Farmer wasn’t known for being a Scullyesque wordsmith, but he knew his way around the language. And talk about lean and mean. It was the most exciting home run in White Sox history and he was able to describe the play and its result, give the score and exult in just 22 words before letting the crowd take over. Go pick out a home run on YouTube and try to do the same thing. It’s tougher than you think.

I can’t claim to have known Farmer well. But there was one day in the Wrigley Field dining room before a Sox-Cubs game that I was looking for a seat. Farmer, who I’d never met before, waved me over to sit  between him and then-partner Chris Singleton. He immediately went into conversation like we’d known each other for years.  The topics were of no surprise: His appearance in the 1980 All-Star Game, the boundaries of the South Side parishes and, eventually, Notre Dame football.

It was a scene that probably played out thousands of times with thousands of people over his 40-plus years in the game and it was interesting to see so many common threads running through the articles written about him on Thursday and the hundreds of tribute tweets sent.

But all of them also contained plenty of personalized details letting you know he wasn’t one of those guys who loves to gladhand while looking over your shoulder for someone with a bigger name to talk with.

If you have a moment today, take a minute to read Bruce Levine’s thoughts on a good friend or Paul Sullivan on why Farmer was an indispensable South Sider or Barry Rozner on why he considered Farmer a “complicated genius.”

Or check out Joe Ostrowski’s tweet about how Farmer always made sure to include him in the broadcasts over seven seasons and Ozzie Guillen’s tear-filled Twitter video.

All provide a great perspective on a guy who said as a kid in Bridgeport that he’d one day play for the White Sox  but ended up doing much, much more than just that.

I solicited your questions all week and you more than answered the call. But it’s probably better to push them off to an emptier day next week. Stay tuned.

• Keep your eyes on social media today because we’re finally hearing from the Bears on their two biggest additions of the offseason.

The Score was hit with a crushing round of layoffs due to the pandemic. Among those who lost their jobs were Connor McKnight, Julie DiCaro, Maggie Hendricks, David Schuster and Rick Camp. (Tribune)

• Another big Chicago-area death: The founder of Rosati’s passed away at the age of 102. (Eater Chicago)

• Thanks to our frent Tim for passing along this parody of American Pie: “The Week Our Sports World Died” (Soundcloud)

The Chicago scientists trying to save our lives (Chicago Mag)

• For anyone who enjoyed my Moose Cholak namedrop in yesterday’s newsletter, here’s a thread I did on the colorful pro wrestler from Chicago’s East Side:

That’s it for today. Please have a good weekend with your families and, as always, thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.