By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — Ed Farmer is many things to many people. The one thing he most certainly conforms to is giving the most unique, Chicago-style play-by-play with color analyst Darrin Jackson on all of the Chicago White Sox games heard on WSCR radio and the Sox radio network.
Farmer, a former major league pitcher and closer for the White Sox, was not trained as a broadcaster. He was a major league scout after his baseball career and was hired to be the color man along with John Rooney from 1992-2005. The two were voted the best broadcast team in a poll taken by USA Today.com in 2004.
Rooney was forced out in 2005 after being offered the same contract he had the previous five years. He knew it was time to leave the Sox booth. Farmer, who did middle innings of play-by-play over the previous 13 seasons, was considered ready by managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf and director of broadcasting Bob Grim to step into Rooney’s spot.
The South Side of Chicago native has never lost sight of his roots and the values he learned from his parents and teachers at St Rita High School. His monotone broadcasts are not for everyone. That includes some of the avid Sox fan base who still long for the Rooney-Farmer team in the booth. I asked Ed to describe his broadcast style. Like any question you ask Ed, he gives you more than you expected.
“I call it a Chicago broadcast,” Farmer said, as we sat in his booth he shares with Jackson 81 games a season. “This is the greatest city I have ever been in. The city is easy to get around in. Starting at State and Madison, the city expands north, south, east and west. We have the best and most dedicated police and firemen [and women] in the world. As for my broadcast, there is nothing predestined when I sit down to do a game with Darrin. I have no idea what I am going to say! There was Ed Farmer who was a player and now there is Ed Farmer who is the broadcaster.”
Coming from a large Irish family and going through the rigors of a kidney transplant twenty years ago, Farmer is a wealth of knowledge on many different subjects, including health care. He has battled to stay ahead of immune system disorders that many including transplant patients must face.
Ed would tell me every offseason how he would go home and put on a tape of a previously played baseball game and do the entire game with the volume turned down in order to be ready for the opportunity to do play-by-play as the voice of White Sox baseball if and when it presented itself.
“I have people come up to me and say ‘I did not like this or that in your broadcast.’ I take the criticism and the accolades for what they are worth. The listeners are friends and I use that term I stole from Jim Nance’s father’s book on his life. I enjoy my work and the people I work with.”
Farmer is one of the best connected people in all of sports. He has hundreds of friends that he has done thousands of favors for. He never says no to a request and he seldom fails to deliver. Ed is also not shy about asking a favor in return. He is a bit like Don Corleone of ‘The Godfather’ movie. If he delivers in the clutch for you, he may or may not ask you to perform a service for him in the future.
Farmer tried to describe his daily broadcast with Jackson, who has become one of the finest color commentators in baseball broadcasting.
“I hope I make him better because he makes me better the way he challenges me,” Farmer related. “Darrin will bring things up if I don’t see them. We take positions on all the variables of a play or call. Darin is my closest friend outside of my family.”
Many people, and I have been guilty of this myself from time to time, compare this current broadcast to the Rooney-Farmer days. Truth be told, many Sox fans have now grown up over the past nine years only knowing the Farmer –Jackson broadcast.
“I make some projections beyond Darrin’s great color work.” Farmer said. “The listener is trying to see if I am right or wrong. I am hoping to increase their attention and enjoyment of our broadcast. A lot of people might want me to be wrong, I am just hoping to keep them listening to White Sox baseball.”
Farmer has advice for the people who object to his style of broadcasting.
“I take the good and the bad,” he said. “If they dislike my broadcast, I will try to be better. If they still don’t like it, they should watch TV or find another way to get White Sox baseball. I just hope I appeal to 51 percent of the people listening.”
Love Farmer or dislike his broadcasts, he is as authentic as a stiff wind off of Lake Michigan.