Actor (final credit: murdered by Albert Einstein in "Carnage Hall"), musician (Ethnocentric Republicans), and Nerf hoops champion, Wiffleball aficionado and onetime bilingual kindergarten teacher, Brett Ballantini also writes about baseball, basketball and sometimes hockey, publishing at the NBA, MLB, NHL, and for Slam, Hoop, Sporting News, the Athletic, and others. He was CSN Chicago’s Blackhawks beat writer for their first Stanley Cup season of 2009-10, and took over the White Sox beat after that. He currently is the editor-in-chief of South Side Hit Pen and managing editor of SB Nation's South Side Sox. He also wrote a book about Ozzie Guillén but is running out of space, so follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and he'll probably tell you even more about himself than you ever wanted to know.
Solid as a: Rock Raines was a stalwart in the leadoff spot for the 1993 White Sox. (Pinnacle)
1993 A division championship season began with a night game in Minnesota and a big 10-5 win over the Twins. Tim Raines knocked in three runs on the night. The White Sox would wind up winning the AL West by eight games and compiling 94 victories.
Spectacular start: Buehrle didn’t just win to begin 2010, he made a defensive play for the ages. (YouTube)
1960 Shortly before the season opened, the White Sox further decimated their stock of young talent by shipping future All-Star and power-hitting catcher Earl Battey along with future power-hitting All-Star first baseman Don Mincher to the Washington Senators for power-hitting first baseman Roy Sievers.
Sievers gave the Sox some good years, averaging 27 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .295 batting average in two seasons. He had a 21-game hitting streak in 1960 and made the All-Star team in 1961. But Battey, who cried when he was told he was traded, may have won the Sox the pennant in 1964, 1967 or both just by himself (to say nothing of other players shipped out that offseason like Johnny Romano, Norm Cash and Johnny Callison.) Battey would go on to make four All-Star appearances and win three Gold Gloves at catcher. Mincher would become a two-time All-Star.
1974 The White Sox opened the season at home under freezing conditions versus the Angels and Nolan Ryan. The Sox started Wilbur Wood, which prompted broadcaster Harry Caray to comment that the game was “The tortoise against the hare.” This time the hare won, as Ryan and the Angels got an easy 8-2 victory.
The game did have its moments, however. The streaking craze had hit college campuses and on this day a few young ladies in the upper deck decided to partially streak while a young man jumped the outfield fence and ran naked through left field before being hoisted back into the stands by his friends. Sox manager Chuck Tanner had one of the best lines anywhere when asked what he thought about the outfield streaker: “I wasn’t impressed by him.” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink … say no more!)
1977 Literally a few hours before the team was to head north to open the season, owner Bill Veeck traded shortstop Russell “Bucky” Dent to the Yankees. Salary was the reasoning behind the deal, and Veeck’s comment that “I’d trade Dent even-up for any other starting shortstop in the American League” didn’t help matters.
In return the White Sox got outfielder Oscar Gamble, pitcher Bob Polinsky, minor league pitcher LaMarr Hoyt and $200,000. Gamble would be a big part of the 1977 hitting orgy, while Hoyt would have some good seasons with the Sox culminating in the 1983 Cy Young Award.
2004 New Manager Ozzie Guillén figured he had his debut game all wrapped up, as the Sox took a 7-3 lead into the ninth inning at Kansas City. Over the next 20 minutes, the Royals scored six runs to take the game, 9-7. The amazing rally set the modern record for the most runs scored in the ninth inning to win a game on Opening Day.
2010 Mark Buehrle made his eighth Opening Day start, setting the franchise record and breaking the tie he had with Billy Pierce. Buehrle was brilliant in the 6-0 win over Cleveland, but what everyone was talking about after the game was the play he made on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Lou Marson in the fifth inning. Both ESPN and the MLB Network called it the play of the year.
Marson’s shot ricocheted off Buehrle’s leg and ricocheted towards foul ground on the first-base side of the field. Buehrle sprinted off the mound, fielded the ball with his glove and flipped it between his legs to Paul Konerko, who made a barehanded catch to nip Marson by a step. It was simply an incredible play.
1982 One of the most highly-anticipated Opening Days in franchise history got snowed out. The White Sox were set to host Boston and the organization was expecting a crowd of around 50,000. That got torpedoed when a blizzard hammered the entire Midwest, cancelling games for days. In fact, the season didn’t open until April 11 in New York, with a doubleheader win over the Yankees.
1983 The same night North Carolina State upset Houston for the NCAA basketball title, the White Sox opened their division championship season dropping a 5-3 game at Texas. The Sox scored three times in the top of the first but were handcuffed after that. Errors by rookies Scott Fletcher and Greg Walker were costly to pitcher LaMarr Hoyt. The Sox would drop all three games to the Rangers, but rebounded to win 99 of the final 159 to take the division by a record 20 games.
1988 It was Ken Williams’ one moment in the sun as a player. On Opening Day, Williams belted a two-run homer in the fifth inning off of California’s Mike Witt to help the Sox to an 8-5 win. Williams would drive in three runs on the afternoon.
1994 The bittersweet shortened season started in Canada with a rematch of the 1993 ALCS. Toronto won this Opening Day 7-3 by blasting Jack McDowell (the reigning Cy Young Award winner) just as they did twice in the postseason the year before.
2005 The World Series season got off to a great start, as a packed house saw Mark Buehrle and Shingo Takatsu shut out Cleveland 1-0 in a game that took less than two hours! That season the White Sox would roar out of the gate at 26-9, the best 35-game start in franchise history.
Bo Knows: That in 1993 he’d be an unsung hero for the division-winning White Sox. (YouTube)
The Sox signed former two-sport All-Star Vincent “Bo” Jackson to a contract. Jackson would have hip replacement surgery and not make a real impact until 1993, when he hit 16 home runs, but the move was a masterful stroke from a public relations standpoint.
The unexpected division championship season didn’t start off promisingly, as the White Sox were buried in Texas, 10-4. They’d lose the next day as well, 12-8. But by the end of the month the Sox set the major league record for most runs scored in April and “The Kids Can Play” White Sox were on their way to a league-leading 95 wins and a postseason appearance.
It’s been a challenge, running separate White Sox sites for about eight months now. One of the downfalls is not being able to be in two places at one time.
So what should have been a timely obit early Thursday here, now turns into a Friday memoriam. And though I wrote on the passing of Ed Farmer at age 70 over at South Side Sox already and there is sure to be overlap, we can’t go without acknowledging the man who, with nearly three decades in the radio booth on the South Side, was a voice of a generation.
Not every game can we pass sitting in a man cave, corner bar or family den, sitting back with a beverage and pausing-rewinding unbelievable plays. Many of us are stuck on the road, or at work, or otherwise on the move and in desperate need of the trusted companion that is White Sox baseball on the radio.
And that’s just what Ed Farmer was to any of us who had a habit of listening to the game. His career in Chicago not only fairly well mirrored Hawk Harrelson’s, but the two had striking similarities. They both filled that rare role of color men in play-by-play shoes. And while Hawk steered toward intentional, and for a long time wildly entertaining, bombast, Farmio often struck a similar tone, more quietly. His was a sort of muted hyperbole.
He and longtime radio parter Darrin Jackson were well-matched. Both understated broadcasters, still willing to cut through the bull and lend a former player’s eye to the action.
It’s neither a surprise that DJ was loving in his tribute to Ed:
“My heart is broken, but my mind is at peace knowing my dear friend is no longer suffering,” Jackson said, in a team statement. “Ed was a competitor who also was everyone’s best friend. I saw firsthand 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.”
Nor that his voice seemed to be cracking in his remarks to White Sox media on Thursday:
Many fans, friends and colleagues wrote and tweeted about Farmer yesterday, as the news sunk in that the radio voice of the White Sox was gone. And so many new him better than me. But still, on the beat even for a brief time, all of the regulars get close. I marched right into the TV booth well before one of my first games to tell the Hawk what a profound influence he was on me as a fan, and a writer. Steve Stone was (and I presume still is) a conspiratorial character on the road, taking time to chat after every game with writers and even fans, asking the temperature of the room before always giving you his take — the right one. DJ was sympathetic and caring, checking in, offering support, slowing down to stride alongside and put a new guy at ease. Heck, I even got to fulfill a childhood dream of holding court with Wimpy: Catching some trouble, and doling some out, too.
Farmer was a bit different from all of them. A man’s man, sure, like most ex-athletes, but yet very soft, surprisingly vulnerable. Losing parents very young (38 and 41) will do that — as will flying through the windshield of a car that crumpled your bike in the middle of a pro baseball career, or being yoked by a lifelong disease that you understand will likely kill you one day. For a prep phenom, major leaguer at 21, All-Star, beloved broadcaster, Farmio had seen some shit.
And he’ll tell you, bombastic or barely audible both. When the Notre Dame volume went up, I tuned out and went to see which classic artist Omar Vizquel was studying on this particular road trip. But when approached with a question about his career, or a game situation that had me puzzled, Farmer was thoughtful and measured, unfailingly precise in his assessments. He downplayed his own greatness, whether as a promising hoops star or a guy (then) among the Top 200 in all-time saves — just so long as you clearly did know his place in the game.
By listening to him on a broadcast, you would not have thought that gentility was his personal brand. But behind the man behind the mic, and even stitched into some of his best broadcasts on a repeat listen, it’s there.
And while even those of us who came to depend on the radio to connect us to our White Sox may tend to understate the medium’s importance, and that of its purveyors, Farmer made a mark:
“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,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a team 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.”
He was a hometown boy made good, and through his own goodness planted roots here after his playing career dissolved into what-ifs and tall tales.
And what’s great, in its own painful way, is that even in death, we never stop learning about these men we watched, listened to, and admired. I was today years old when I found out that Basketball Hall of Fame GM Jerry Krause didn’t just lobby the White Sox to acquire Farmer in 1979 (they listened), but that Krause was the original scout to sign him for Cleveland.
Just like Farmer’s playing career was largely overshadowed by the stars of the starting rotation and pen, there were more colorful, even stronger, broadcasters in town during Farmer’s career. But he cared deeply for our team, and that affection bled through his announcing work. It’s not for nothing that some of the best highlights from 2005, or for any White Sox season stretching back almost three decades, feature Farmer’s voice on the soundtrack.
Today, the White Sox put it perfectly, with a wonderful tribute:
New exes: Ed Herrmann hangs with former teammate Bill Melton at Comiskey Park in 1975,
1975 In an indication of how bad off the White Sox were financially, Ed Herrmann (one of the top catchers in baseball) was traded to the Yankees for four minor league players. The reason? According to Herrmann, it was because he wanted a $2,000 raise!
2011 The White Sox started the season with a torrent of runs in blistering Cleveland, 15-10. It was the second-highest scoring total on Opening Day in franchise history. The Sox led 14-0 after the first five innings. Carlos Quentin drove in five runs, and newcomer Adam Dunn knocked in four.
Big blast: Frank Thomas was the first White Sox player to homer in a regular-season March game.
1996 Because of a quirk in the calendar the White Sox had a March Opening Day for the first time in franchise history, when they started the 1996 season in Seattle on the final day of the month. Frank Thomas hit a two-run home run off of Randy Johnson in the first inning, but the Sox lost the game, 3-2, in 12 innings.
1971 Another good deal pulled off by the White Sox and GM Roland Hemond. He sent catcher Duane Josephson and pitcher Danny Murphy to the Red Sox for relief pitcher Vicente Romo and first baseman Tony Muser.
Muser was one of the best defensive first baseman in baseball and was tremendous as a late-inning replacement for Dick Allen. He was an earlier version of Mike Squires, if you will. Romo helped stabilize a young White Sox bullpen with an ERA of 3.33 and six saves in his two years with the team, primarily as a middle relief guy.
1981 Shortly before the start of the regular season, the White Sox purchased the contract of Chicago native slugger Greg Luzinski from the Phillies. The strongman would become a two-time American League Designated Hitter of the Year and provide solid power to the middle of the batting order. In his three-and-a-half seasons with the White Sox he pounded out 84 home runs and drove in 317 RBIs. “Bull” would also become the first man to hit three rooftop home runs in a single season at the original Comiskey Park (1983).
1982 Needing outfield help, White Sox GM Roland Hemond sent two prospects to the Dodgers for the speedy Rudy Law. Law would smash the team’s stolen base record in 1983, swiping 77 bases. His career on the South Side wasn’t long, but it was memorable, as he supplied speed and defense to the 1983 Western Division champions. In his four years with the Sox, Rudy stole 171 bases.
1992 Seeking another power bat to hit behind Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura and not being able to close a deal with Mark McGwire, White Sox GM Ron Schueler dealt outfielder Sammy Sosa and pitcher Ken Patterson to the Cubs for outfielder/DH George Bell. Bell would have 112 RBIs in 1992 and a solid 1993, but outbursts during the 1993 ALCS over playing time sealed his fate with the organization.
Sosa would become the face of the Cubs and challenge the all-time single season home run marks in the late 1990s. However in the wake of the steroid scandal and his potential involvement with it he left baseball with a cloud over him, with his future Hall of Fame chances in real jeopardy.
Lurker Laura jumps on the podcast to talk about the changes proposed to the 2020 baseball season, including an abridged schedule and shortened draft. And of course, the delicious desert of the podcast is the unveiling of Laura’s diary entries from 2005, her “lost B-Sides” never before published that tell the saga of Carlos Lee, and the triumph of an Opening Day win, and more.