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The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #298: With All Due Respect, Ed Farmer Was An Awful Announcer

The job of the journalist is to tell the truth, not be a clubby insider. Plus: Q Life; Les Grobstein Still Employed - Others Not So Lucky; If You Love Chicago So Much Why Don't You Live There?; Bears Bargain Basement; Dippy DePaul; Ex-Cub Jhonny Pereda Makes Coronavirus History; and How Coffman Denied His Lineage To Become A Cubs Fan.


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SHOW NOTES

* 298.

:12: Q Life.

* Coach Bowman!

* The Blazing Blue Herons!

* The Portland Herons.

* Forget Instacart, I'm ordering groceries from Instagram. They're really pretty.

* Jim Doolittle.

13:04: With All Due Respect: The Truth About Ed Farmer.

He was an awful broadcaster who made shit up, reportedly grew up in Evergreen Park and lived in Southern California - probably a euphemism for Los Angeles for Chicago sportswriters unable to face the truth.

To wit:

* Paul Sullivan, Tribune: Ed Farmer Will Be Remembered As A South Sider Through And Through.

And by that, he doesn't mean a black man. He means, like others we will also look at, including John Kass, a stand-up working-class white guy, inherently imbued with all the values that once made America great.

* "I loved listening to his old stories, whether they were embellished or not."

Personally, I don't love listening to bullshit - especially on-air from highly compensated announcers. No journalist should.

* "Sometimes they ended differently than the first time you heard it."

Ha ha ha!

* Like the one about the Yankee Stadium security guard. I won't retell it here; you'll have to click through. But in one version, the man is missing fingers. In the version Score honcho Mitch Rosen told on the air, and Kass retold in his column, he was missing his thumb. No version is remotely believable - or reflects well on Farmer if you just stop to think about it.

* "A Sox fan's story, pure 79th and Francisco."

Ah, magical 79th and Francisco. Where men were men. With real values, not like those North Side sissies.

* "Farmer was a homer, no doubt about it."

So, bad at his job.

* "But while Farmer never took himself too seriously, he was very serious about his craft."

From everything I've read, he took himself very seriously: "Eddie was a brilliant guy with an IQ above 150 - he would tell you that in no uncertain terms," The Score's Bruce Levine writes lovingly.

* "Ed knew what was going to happen in a game many times before it happened," [former broadcast partner John] Rooney said. "He knew his baseball, really knew his pitching, and that's what made him a good scout and then a good analyst. He was a quick study on play-by-play as well."

Levine: "The play-by-play work didn't come naturally."

Most objective observers said it didn't come at all.

* "In his final years on the job, Farmer became a target for a vocal minority of Sox fans who didn't like his style. That's an occupational hazard for all broadcasters, though much of the criticism was unnecessarily harsh and personal."

It was hardly a minority. Farmer consistently finished at or near the bottom of various announcer rankings, as we shall see.

* "[A] South Sider all the way through."

And not at all like a Southern Californian.

* Kass, Tribune: The Kid From The South Side And Voice Of The Sox: Ed Farmer, RIP.

* "'Farmio' was from 79th and Francisco, learned to play catch there in the alley with his friend Charlie. He was of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Parish and loved Notre Dame."

Somehow being of the St. Thomas More Parish and loving Notre Dame imbues you with admirable qualities. Kass would never write what mosque someone was from, or that they loved Evergreen College.

* "If you're from some other place, some Arlington or leafy Bethesda, or sun-cracked Albuquerque or a San Jose, then place markers like 79th and Francisco, and Chicago alleys, parishes and neighborhoods might not mean that much to you. Fat Johnnie's Famous Red Hots might not mean much to you, either."

Because those places aren't special. They don't have alleys, neighborhoods, red hots. They are generic and without values - perhaps like Western Springs, where Kass has lived for at least 30 years.

* "But to many Sox fans that kind of thing means a lot, because it meant Farmer was of here, of the South Side, one of us."

Who is "us?"

* "A kind gentleman and friend to many off the field, he was a battler on the mound. He once broke slugger Al Cowens' jaw (and popped out a few teeth) with a fastball."

That's so South Side!

* "When the Sox were putrid, Farmer would get glum, like Hawk Harrelson would on TV. The sullen broadcast silences and sighs were positively Homeric."

* Yes, Homeric epically childish and unprofessional.

* Teddy Greenstein,Tribune: Ed Farmer And I Had A Beef. But In Our Final Interaction, Thankfully, We Didn't.

* "I began to cover sports media and in 2007 wrote a column grading Chicago's TV and radio broadcast teams.

"I gave the Ed Farmer/Chris Singleton duo a 'D' and wrote: 'This is the most awkward pairing since Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan. Actually, it's worse. At least Ditka and Ryan were colorful.'

Ah, one of Sullivan's vocal minority!

Farmer was paired with Steve Stone the following season and I described how Farmer kept cutting him off in their debut: "Farmer would interrupt a call from the White House to tell President Bush about his last birdie."

I added: "Stone has a one-year contract to do Sox radio, but it's Farmer who's on the hot seat. If he can't work with Stone, he can't work with anyone."

Two months later I went to Sox Park to interview Ozzie Guillen Jr. about his Sunday night show on WSCR-AM 670. I passed through the clubhouse on my way to the dugout, and Farmer was there, guns blazing.

He berated me, saying, "You don't know baseball," and trying to quiz me on parts of the game. He was trying to intimidate me, but I found it hilarious. Intimidating was Albert Belle screaming, "Did you forget the (bleeping) protocol?"

I asked Farmer if he'd prefer to discuss it on the field, away from the players. Nope, like a manager getting his money's worth with an umpire before an ejection, Farmer wanted to rant before an audience.

The players went from amused - they generally loved seeing critical writers get a dose of their own medicine - to bemused. Farmer had made his point. Could he move on already?

"C'mon, Ed," Paul Konerko said.

* It's all the better because of this 2014 piece by Levine: Sox Play-By-Play Man Ed Farmer Not Sensitive To Critiques.

* Also from that piece: "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."

I didn't grow up here, though I've lived her for 28 years - longer by a lot than anywhere else I've lived - so perhaps that's why I don't understand what "Chicago-style play-by-play" is. Maybe, "And he hits it over by dere!"

* "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."

Again, the roots and values of St. Rita High School are in no way superior to those anyone learns anywhere else - and I'd venture to say, being a Catholic school, perhaps far worse!

* "His monotone broadcasts are not for everyone."

Is a monotone broadcast for anyone?

* "'I call it a Chicago broadcast,' Farmer said, as we sat in his booth he shares with Jackson 81 games a season."

Is that what monotone means?

* "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."

Yes, the Chicago Police Department has a rich history of St. Rita values. Of course, Jon Burge grew up on the Southeast Side and went to Bowen, so whaddya gonna do.

* From Levine's post this week:

"Living in Southern California with Barbara and Shanda was his great joy. He went home on off days during the season for the last 10 years so he could see his beloved ladies. He did so even if it was for one day. The trip necessitated long plane flights home and back, but those trips meant the world to him."

* Jim Margalus, Sox Machine: "While FanGraphs and Awful Announcing regularly posted annual reviews of the TV broadcast booths, the only radio ranking I can find is from FanGraphs in 2016. It's not kind. Farmer and Jackson ranked 29th out of 30th, and the feedback sounds familiar.

* Matt Fishman, Barrett Sports Media: "Having listened to them a couple of weeks ago, I am again surprised at how embarrassingly awful this broadcast is . . . Ed Farmer was Rooney's analyst and the broadcast worked. Farmer moved over to play-by-play when Rooney went to St. Louis. He wasn't a play-by-play man then, and still isn't one now. He mumbles and stumbles his way through a game with a monotone voice. Additionally, Farmer apparently does little to no prep for his broadcast.

"For example, during a weekend series with the Cubs, he was talking about having seen Cubs reliever Steve Cishek when Cishek was in Minnesota and how he's practically unhittable. Sounds great, except that Cishek has never played for the Twins. Farmer had confused him with former Twins and current Phillies reliever Pat Neshek. Knowing the information is 100% wrong, analyst Darrin Jackson had to correct Farmer on the air.

"To add to the fun there is no chemistry between the two, but they both try to be funny or bust each other. It is so dry and contrived and it nearly always falls flat.Jackson's not going unscathed here as he talked about astronaut and American Hero Jim Lovell as having 'intestical fortitude' instead of 'intestinal fortitude.' It's an embarrassment to a storied franchise that has had some great announcers through the years."

* Finally, a couple writers recalled fondly how Farmer would do a favor for anyone. They also noted, but didn't appear to process, how he would expect the favor returned at a time of his choosing.

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I informally asked some knowledgeable Beachwood sportswriters about Farmer via e-mail. Some responses:

* "My big objection to him was that he should have been a color guy only. He had a lot of intelligent things to say about the game, players, etc., but in describing action (which is the NUMBER ONE requirement of a radio PBP guy) he was just brutal."

* "He didn't paint the radio picture very well and he seemed to luxuriate in the minimal."

* "He was literally the worst announcer I ever heard."

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This all reminds me of the Hawk Harrelson encomiums - and about the time when Adam Hoge praised Hawk for his "good work" in leaving the booth in the middle of a game to run down to the locker room to see how his pal Todd Frazier was after suffering a five-stitch owie.

Chicago-style!

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See also our very own Roger Wallenstein's remembrance: The Farmer Files.

24:47: Les Grobstein Still Employed; Others Not So Lucky.

* Out: Connor McKnight, Julie DiCaro, David Schuster, Rick Kamp, Maggie Hendricks.

"The full extent of the job cuts in Chicago, where Entercom has six other stations besides The Score - WXRT-FM 93.1, WBBM-FM 96.3, WBMX-FM 104.3, WUSN-FM 99.5 and WBBM-AM 780, which simulcasts on WCFS-FM 105.9 - was not immediately known."

31:47: If You Love Chicago So Much Why Don't You Live There?

Apparently grew up in Skokie, got this tattoo in Deerfield.

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* John Kass hasn't lived in Chicago for at least 30 years, if not longer.

* Dan McNeil has lived his whole life in Northwest Indiana.

* The recently departed editor-in-chief (Bruce Dold) and editorial page editor (John McCormick) lived in LaGrange for at least decades.

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Plus:

* Rutter: What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

37:42: Bears Bargain Basement.

* Bears Bring Back DeAndre Houston-Carson.

* Biggs Time: Are You Sure Nick Foles Is The New Starting QB? Will This Be GM Ryan Pace's Last Draft? Is Wide Receiver Really A 'Need' For A Win-Now Roster?

* Finley, Sun-Times: Having missed on so many of his own first-round draft picks, Ryan Pace picks through the remnants of others' first-round mistakes.

The Seahawks decided a year ago not to offer offensive lineman Germain Ifedi a fifth-year option, which would have paid him a staggering $10.3 million. That was an easy call, considering Ifedi led the league in penalties in 2017 and finished in the top 10 in the two years since.

The sixth pick in 2013, outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo was traded by the Browns after only three seasons and seven sacks. Since then, he's played for a new team every year - the Patriots, Colts, Seahawks, Texans and now Bears - and has totaled only four more sacks. He's a draft bust who found a way to stick around the league. He played three quarters of the Texans' special teams snaps last year; after giving him $1.187 million

The 25th pick four years ago, cornerback Artie Burns posted three interceptions as a rookie and started all 16 games the next season. His fall from grace was precipitous - Burns played 99.3 percent of the Steelers' defensive snaps in 2017, then 29.5 percent in 2018 and 6.1 percent last year. The Steelers like to reward their own players as much as any team in the NFL. It's a statement, then, when they decide to let a first-round pick leave after only four years.

49:43: Dippy DePaul.

* DePaul And Dave Leitao Agree To Multi-Year Contract Extension.

* DePaul Junior Forward Paul Reed Declares For NBA Draft.

54:35: Ex-Cub Jhonny Pereda Makes Coronavirus History.

* ESPN: The Inside Story Of The First MLB Player Traded During The Coronavirus Pandemic.

"Pereda doesn't know what he'll do if there isn't more clarity soon. Pereda supplements his baseball salary by herding cattle during the offseason after investing in cows with his signing bonus."

56:10: How Coffman Denied His Lineage To Become A Cubs Fan.

* "In the offseason, Richie Zisk signed with another team and then so did Oscar Gamble, and we weren't thrilled by the attempted compensatory signing of Bobby Bonds. My White Sox affinity died right there."

59:45: How Surfers Saved The Trestles.

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STOPPAGE: 2:40

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For archives and other shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

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