Skip to main content

C.A.: 1980 Topps Ed Farmer

(The older this blog gets, the less other bloggers can relate to it. I'm pretty sure of that. I don't particularly care because I'm certainly not going to start waxing nostalgic about the late '90s to keep up with the times. But at the rate things are going, I'll be the only blogger musing about the '70s and '80s in a mere matter of months. Anyway, for the few of you who tune in for Cardboard Appreciation, thank you. It's time once again. This is the 291st in a series):

I really don't want Cardboard Appreciation to turn into Eulogy Appreciation, but that's the way it's gone the last two times.

A week after losing a childhood favorite in Jimmy Wynn, we lost one of those baddies from my childhood, Ed Farmer.

Some of you are saying "baddie"? He was a baseball announcer for 30 years! The radio voice of the White Sox! A respected and familiar voice of someone who obviously loved the game so much! He championed the cause of organ donation (he struggled with an inherited kidney disease all his life and it eventually killed him). Really, there seemed to be so much to like about this man.

Well, you're a product of where and when you grew up.

I didn't grow up in the Midwest. I wasn't a kid in the '80s and '90s. I was a kid in the '70s, far, far away from Chicago and its baseball broadcasts. And, Farmer may have been behind the first "purpose pitch" incident I ever knew.

It's a well-known moment. Ed Farmer was pitching for the Rangers against the Royals in 1979. He hit batter Frank White in the hand, knocking him out of the game. Then in that same game, he threw a pitch that shattered Al Cowens' jaw. Cowens missed nearly a month and came back with one of those protective shields.

I was horrified. How could someone hit somebody in the face with a baseball? Then some people said it was on purpose. I believed it. The Royals didn't believe it. Or at least they said they didn't think it was intentional. But I didn't hear that part and Farmer suddenly seemed mean, a dastardly person there on the mound. Look at that 1980 card, he practically looks like Snidely Whiplash ready to tie Nell Fenwick to the train tracks.

The next year -- 1980 -- he suddenly appeared in my baseball card packs, now with the White Sox. It was my first Ed Farmer card and I didn't like it.

But that same year, Farmer, now with the White Sox, was pitching in extra innings in a game against the Tigers. Cowens had also changed teams. He now played for the Tigers.

Cowens -- this is now more than a year after he got hit by Farmer remember -- hit a ground ball to shortstop and Farmer turned toward the infield to watch the play. He didn't see Cowens detour from the usual route to first and speed toward the mound, where he tackled Farmer from behind. A brawl ensued. A big brawl.

Chicago police filed an arrest warrant against Cowens. He was suspended for seven games. Farmer filed a lawsuit against him. But the two eventually patched things up with a handshake.

That was quite the turnabout. I guess this Farmer guy wasn't too bad, I thought. And Cowens, who I liked a lot when he was with the Royals, suddenly seemed like he had a screw loose.

Anyway, that was one of my first experiences, if not the first experience, with a mound-charging bean ball brawl (most of my baseball fight viewing prior to that came from plays on the bases).

Today, I'm more interested in Farmer as being one of those Gappers.

I wrote about them a couple years ago. Those are the players who disappear off a trading card for YEARS and then suddenly they're back again.

The 1980 Farmer card was the first time Farmer was on a baseball card as far as I was concerned. But he had actually appeared on a baseball card before that, several times in fact. But the most recent one prior to 1980 was 1974:

He never appeared in the first set I collected, 1975, nor in those formative years of collecting in '76, '77, '78 and '79. That's six years between cards!

It's not the longest gap in my collection. As I mentioned in that old post, Vicente Romo appeared in a set in 1975 and then not again until 1983.

Farmer nearly quit baseball after struggling for so many years to get back to the majors.

He didn't have it easy. As a kid he struggled with his speech. Cowens' attack aggravated his kidney disease and Farmer has said he was never the same on the field. He saw family members die from the disease. Farmer lived many years longer than his mother, who died at age 38. But it was a constant battle and he succumbed eventually on Wednesday at age 70.

He doesn't sound like a baddie to me.


I was barely alive during the 1970s, but I love reading stories about players and games from this era. Thank you for sharing.
That was a pussy move by Cowens.

Keep waxing about the 70s, and never mind about the 90s. Anyone who cares about that junk wax period (young enough to not know any better I guess) have other blogs they can visit.
Nice post and very informative. I appreciate the cardboard appreciation!
I think Topps would fair better if they omitted a lot more players in today's sets.
That's a nice tribute, Night Owl. I was 11 years old living on the South Side of Chicago in 1979 when Ed Farmer joined the White Sox in a mid-season trade. As a kid I gained most of my knowledge about players from the backs of baseball cards, so I'm pretty sure I'd never heard of him before then. But my dad and I were both excited because Farmer was a graduate of Chicago's St. Rita High School, where my dad went to high school and where I already knew I would be going in a few years. (In fact, the cartoon on the back of that 1980 card says he threw two no-hitters in high school and mentions St. Rita by name.)

I met Farmer and got his autograph when I was in 8th grade in 1981. That was the Sox' first year under new ownership, and they had a great start to the season, thanks largely to the recent acquisitions of Carlton Fisk, Ron LeFlore and Greg Luzinski. Sometime that spring, my dad took my brother and me to Midway airport to try to meet some of the players as they were leaving on a road trip. Farmer stopped to sign for us -- I had the 1980 card -- and when I told him where I was going to high school in the fall, he seemed genuinely interested.

It was a small gesture from a big league veteran, and the whole thing probably lasted less than a minute, but it meant so much to me. It's still one of my favorite baseball memories I have of my dad and brother.
steelehere said…
I always think of his 1981 Topps card when I think of Ed Farmer. I just remember him for his 1980 season where he essentially came out of nowhere to become the White Sox closer and make his only All-Star team.
acrackedbat said…
Nice 74, my only Farmer card. My first big brawl was the Ryan/Ventura match. I haven't liked Ventura since. It's a shame Farmer suffered so. 70 is still too young. Nice tribute to him, NO and an excellent appreciation post.
sg488 said…
I believe Chuck Hartenstein was a 7 year gapper also 1970-77.
Keep writing posts like this and you won’t be the only one musing that decade for a lot longer than a few months. Nice one, I learned a lot.
Old Cards said…
Agree with Jim from D. Forget about the 90's. There are way too many cards anyway. Keep writing about the 70's and the 50's and 60's as you do sometimes.
RunForeKelloggs said…
I listened to him frequently while driving. He just made it feel like we were sitting around a table talking baseball. I will miss that - and I'm partial to the Cubs not the White Sox.
night owl said…
@sg488 ~

Vicente Romo was actually 8 years. I typed 1982 instead of 1983, which I'm fixing now.
carlsonjok said…
If Farmer was throwing at the Royals, they probably deserved it. It's been 43 years, but I still haven't forgiven Hal McRae for that slide into Willie Randolph in the 1977 ALCS.
Chris said…
I love the '90s. I lived the '90s. I know the '90s.

I didn't know anything about Ed Farmer. I just scanned up his 1981 Topps card in my FSF post because it didn't fit my collection. Not a White Sox fan or an '81 set builder, never heard of the guy. But thanks to your post I learned at least five new things about him.

To prove your point, no one claimed the '81 Farmer card. I'm kind of glad they didn't. And if they claim it today, I know it will be a direct result of reading this post.
Fuji said…
I truly love learning new things... especially when they stem from a baseball card post. I honestly had no idea who Ed Farmer was. But the Farmer/Cowens story was fascinating.

According to a Sports Illustrated article, it seems like Cowens was taking a peek at the catcher and though Farmer would be throwing a breaking ball (away), instead of a fast ball (inside).
Nick said…
Considering Farmer had long been a prominent radio voice for a hometown team, I knew very little about him. Learned a lot from this post.

(I may be a '90s kid, but please keep talking about the '70s! You're one of the few vessels I have to that time.)
CinciCuse Bill said…
I'm with you. Oddly, I collected like crazy from 70 - 75, then nothing until 81-ish. I just realized tonight I only have about 15 common cards from 76! I've since added quite a few premiums from that era to build some collections, but the late 70's are largely a void.

Keep posting what you like and let the chips fall where they may. Clearly, I'm not the only one enjoying your posts.


Popular posts from this blog

Selfless card acts

The trouble with the world, if I may be so bold to weigh in (it's not like anyone else is holding back), is that not enough people think outward.

Take a look at just about every world problem that there is, and within each of those individual maelstroms, is somebody, usually a lot of folks, thinking only of themselves.

Looking out for No. 1 is a big, big problem on this earth. One of the biggest. And it's not getting better. I see it coming from all directions and all sides. No one is innocent. Everyone is guilty. Selfishness is the crime.

Our hobby is not immune. That's what makes the baseball card blog community so great, because it's a daily example of what can be achieved when you think of others first, before yourself.

Selflessness is such a staple of card blogs that some collectors have become immune to its charms. "Oh boy, here's another post about what somebody got thanks to the goodness of someone's heart. I don't need to read THAT." I a…

Some of you have wandered into a giveaway

Thanks to all who voted in the comments for their favorite 1970s Topps card of Bert Campaneris.

I didn't know how this little project would go, since I wasn't installing a poll and, let's face it, the whole theme of the post is how Campaneris these days doesn't get the respect he once did. (Also, I was stunned by the amount of folks who never heard about the bat-throwing moment. Where am I hanging out that I see that mentioned at least every other month?)

A surprising 31 people voted for their favorite Campy and the one with the most votes was the one I saw first, the '75 Topps Campy card above.

The voting totals:

'75 Campy - 11 votes
'70 Campy - 4
'72 Campy - 4
'73 Campy - 4
'76 Campy - 4
'74 Campy - 3
'78 Campy - 1

My thanks to the readers who indulged me with their votes, or even if they didn't vote, their comments on that post. To show my appreciation -- for reading, for commenting, for joining in my card talk even if it might …

"If they only knew" cards

(I've begun packaging some of the prizes for the giveaway. I believe I now have everyone's address except for Jeff S. Just send me an email!)

For the first 35-40 years of my life, the word "goat" as it applied to baseball either meant the Billy Goat curse that followed the Cubs around for 100 years or a player who screwed up in a significant game.

"Baseball's Greatest Goats," that was the kind of title used for books or articles and everyone knew that when they opened the pages, they'd read about the biggest gaffes, goofs and blunders in baseball history.

Try searching that phrase now.

"Goat" no longer means the opposite of "hero" in sports lingo. It actually means hero. G-O-A-T. Greatest Of All Time. Just about every internet sports reference to "goat" involves Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali or some other athletic great. Somehow "goat" has come to mean completely the opposite of what it used to mean.

But tho…