Thursday, February 28, 2013

#506 - Ed Farmer

On another one of those oddly predictive Topps cards Ed Farmer gets photographed at Comiskey Park, where years later he would enjoy his greatest success as a pitcher and go on to bigger and better things professionally. But the time period reflected on this card was a bit different. After more-or-less usurping the closer role for the Tribe in ’72, Ed had a pretty ineffective start to the ’73 season and mid-year went to Detroit for infielder Kevin Collins and pitcher Tom Timmermann. The rest of the way for the Tigers he was still pretty ineffective despite his perfect record. For the season he recorded only three saves. By the time this card came out he was traded twice. First he went to the Yankees while teammate Jim Perry went to Cleveland. Detroit got back Jerry Moses from NY and the Yankees also got Walt Williams and Rick Sawyer from the Tribe. Then two days later Ed got sold to the Phillies. That must have been fun. It was good practice, though, because Ed wasn’t going to stop moving for awhile. My guess as to the guy behind Ed in the shot is Jim Northrup.

Ed Farmer grew up in Chicago where he was a prep star at St. Rita High School. He was drafted by Cleveland upon graduating in ’67 and then went 3-0 in seven starts his first summer in Rookie ball. His ERA was only 1.97 but his walk per inning would be a blemish that would return down the road. In ’68 he pitched well enough in A ball but a four-game run at Double A didn’t go too well. In ’69 things got worse at both levels but at the end of the season some work in the IL, during which he went 5-2 with a 3.19 ERA, got him back on track. In ’70 he had a decent year at Triple A and though his numbers took a step back the next year Cleveland was hurting for pitching and Ed got a June call-up.

Farmer was a big guy who threw heat and a slider but was a bit wild. His first year up Cleveland used him in a couple spot starts and primarily middle relief. Despite a pretty high ERA he picked up four saves and in ’72 he eventually worked his way into the closer role, finishing the most games on the team and recording seven saves. After the trade to NY during spring training of ’74 it was disclosed the team was planning on him going to Triple A. Ed balked, which precipitated the sale to Philadelphia. For the Phillies he had a couple good early games but then fell apart control-wise and went to the minors anyway.  Though his ERA was over 8.00 up top he delivered a 2.68 in seven starts in Triple A. Still, after the season Philly sent him packing to Milwaukee for a minor leaguer. ’75 would be a tough year: experiencing sharp shoulder pain, Ed went only 2-8 with a 7.82 ERA in 13 Triple A starts before being sold to the Mexican League’s Union Laguna team and then being released during ’76 spring training. But the experience with the Brewers wasn’t all bad as that year the club picked up the tab on shoulder surgery performed by Dr. Frank Jobe. Ed missed the whole season to recover and was without a team, but in ’77 he got a tryout with Baltimore, made the cut, and had a vastly improved ’77 in Triple A, going 11-5 in 24 starts with a 4.47 ERA. He also dropped his slider that year in favor of a curveball and a change-up.

Farmer only had a one-year contract with the O’s and early in ’78 he returned to Milwaukee where in Triple A he returned to relieving and put up a 9-7 record and eight saves despite a high ERA. He also returned for real to The Show late that year going 1-0 with a save and a 0.82 ERA in three games. After that season he and Gary Holle were traded to Texas for Reggie Cleveland. With the Rangers he became the long guy out of the pen for ’79, setting up for Jim Kern and Sparky Lyle. That was a tough role that year since a lot of the Rangers starters regularly went deep and Ed only got into eleven games by mid-way through the season. Though he went 2-0 with a 4.36 ERA in that span his most memorable game came against KC when he plunked and injured two Royals: he broke Frank White’s hand and Al Cowens’ cheek in an incident that would return to haunt him. That June at the trading deadline he went to the White Sox – again with Gary Holle – for recent post subject Eric Soderholm (he keeps showing up). Shades of ’72, Ed took over the closer role in the pen, this time much more effectively as he went 3-7 the rest of the year with a 2.43 ERA and 14 saves.

In 1980 Farmer built on the momentum with which he finished the prior season. He turned in an All-Star season out of the pen, going 7-9 with a 3.34 ERA and a club-record 30 saves. Two negatives compromised that good run, however. One came in June when Ed faced Al Cowens again. Cowens, now with Detroit, grounded out to shortstop but instead of running to first, sprinted to the mound and started pummeling Farmer. Cowens got a five-game suspension and later in the year the two had a public reconciliation in September when they each brought out the line-up card before a game and shook hands. The more far-reaching bad development was pain Ed began to experience in his abdomen late in the season. That pain would continue to haunt him the next decade and would impact his pitching career. His ’81 follow-up season was disappointing as Ed went 3-3 with ten saves as his ERA moved up to 4.61. After the season he was a free agent and he returned to the Phillies for a pretty big paycheck. Philly, looking for a bullpen stopper along the lines of Ed’s ’80 season instead got a discount to the 81 version as in ’82 he went 2-6 with six saves and a 4.86 ERA. By the end of the year he was moved to a swing role but things only worsened in that role in ’83, when he went 0-6 with a 6.08 ERA. After some equally bad work in the minors, Ed was released that August and then picked up by Oakland for whom he had a decent ten innings up top after some mid-range work in Triple A. But after some pretty poor numbers the following season at the lower level he was released. In ’85 he hooked up with the new independent Miami Marlins, a Class A team, and went 7-5 with nine saves and a 2.73 ERA. That got Pittsburgh interested and in ’86 he went 4-7 with eight saves for its Triple A franchise. By then he was 36, the pain in his gut was pretty intense, and he decided to retire. He finished with a lifetime 30-43 record with a 4.30 ERA and 75 saves.

Farmer took a year off and returned to baseball in ’88 as a scout for Baltimore, which he did through the ’90 season, during which he returned to Chicago and got some pick-up work providing color on some local newscasts. In ’91 he hooked up full-time with the Sox as assistant to GM Ron Schueler –a former teammate and coach – and relief play-by-play work in the booth. That year he also had the endgame to his abdominal pain. It turned out he had a genetic predisposition to polycistic kidney disease which pretty much wrecked his kidneys and required a transplant that year from his brother, who had not inherited the disease. All well for ’92 he became a full-time broadcaster that year, first as a color guy with John Rooney (’92-2005) and then as the play-by-play man (’06-present) after the team switched radio affiliations. He has also done some work for ESPN radio.

I don’t know what’s going on with the first half of that signature. Ed gets the star bullet props for some high school feats. That second one happened during an Illinois high school all-star game. He was also a star hoops player, no surprise there given his height. This was actually Ed’s last card for a long while. His next one would not be until the ’80 set. That must be a record of some kind.

Both Buckner and Farmer have that Soderholm link and Buckner was a farmer at one point but that doesn’t work here:

1. Farmer and Mike Krukow ’82 Phillies;
2. Krukow and Bill Buckner ’77 to ’81 Cubs.

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