When Eloy Jimenez hit that magical two-run home run to beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field in June 2019, a veteran Chicago broadcaster was upstairs in the visitors’ radio booth making the call on WGN-AM 720.
No, it wasn’t Ed Farmer.
Andy Masur, no stranger to the Friendly Confines, was pinch-hitting for Farmer that night.
“A high fly ball into deep left field,” Masur said into his microphone with his voice inflection rising. “Schwarber turns and looks, and it’s gone! Eloy Jimenez has just hit a two-run bomb and it’s 3-1, White Sox!”
Longtime White Sox radio analyst Darrin Jackson waited for Masur to finish his call before interjecting: “Jimenez floats around the bases here at Wrigley Field in his first ever game against his former team.”
Masur responded: “I don’t think his feet have touched the ground yet.”
Jason Benetti may have stolen the show on the television broadcast with his now famous “Thanks, Cubs!” quip, but inside the radio booth, Masur and Jackson also delivered a great call that showcased their growing chemistry. With Farmer’s health in flux during much of the 2019 season, Masur handled a big chunk of the play-by-play duties, including almost all of September.
Sadly, Farmer died April 1 at the age of 70 due to complications from a previous illness. He had been in the White Sox’s radio booth for 28 years and was the primary play-by-play voice since 2006. With the 2020 season on hiatus due to COVID-19, the team had yet to name his replacement, but the White Sox announced Tuesday that Masur will take over the role during the shortened 2020 season that is set to begin either July 23 or 24.
Masur has been given no guarantees beyond 2020. A former member of the Cubs' radio booth, he handled various duties on the North Side including a half-inning of play-by-play as he relieved Pat Hughes during games. In 2007, he moved to San Diego to join the Padres’ broadcast team, where he overlapped with White Sox manager Rick Renteria, who was on the Padres’ coaching staff from 2008-13. After moving back to Chicago in 2013, Masur rejoined WGN and started handling White Sox pre- and post-game duties when the White Sox moved to WGN in 2018.
In an exclusive conversation with NBC Sports Chicago, Masur discusses the task of taking over for Farmer this year and the opportunity to possibly keep the job beyond 2020 (Full disclosure: I also handled White Sox pre- and post-game duties on WGN Radio alongside Masur the last two seasons and will still be a contributor to the broadcasts in 2020.) Here is the conversation, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
Let’s start with the opportunity to succeed Ed Farmer under very unique and tough circumstances. First, Farmer passing away in April and second, this being a 60-game season.
It's bittersweet, I got to be honest with you on that. Because Ed was such a great guy to me and just a great guy period. It's hard to take over for a guy that was so good to you, but obviously the circumstances are as they are and I'm absolutely grateful to get a chance to get into that booth and take over for a legend with big shoes to fill.
You've already established yourself in that booth a little bit having filled in for Farmer a bunch last year. How do you feel like your chemistry is with Darrin Jackson and how excited are you to keep that going?
I'm really excited to work with DJ. I had a blast working with him in the opportunities I had last year. I think our chemistry was really good. We had only worked together a few times prior to the first time we did a full game together and I thought it went pretty well. I think he was happy with it. I know I was happy with it. He knows a lot about baseball, and he has a really unique way of presenting that to the fan. He is emotional to the point where you know when someone has done something wrong and you know when someone has done something right. So he doesn't really mince that. I really appreciate that because I can kind of lead him to things and he knows where I'm going with it and certainly fills that role really well. He's just a great guy period.
The last couple of years we've both been around that booth, the White Sox have been in rebuild mode and the summers, quite frankly, have felt a little long. With this only being a 60-game season and the White Sox appearing ready to compete, this could be a very exciting and different time to be in that booth.
Well, definitely. There's a lot of anticipation about what this season is going to hold. You go back to March before the pandemic, and the vibes in the clubhouse in Glendale were great. Everybody thought, OK, well this is our time now. Some pieces got put into place by general manager Rick Hahn, and Ricky Renteria certainly had a lineup in front of him that looked pretty formidable, plus some good pitching as well. And some young guys starting to grow up. Now, it's going to be a different animal obviously with only 60 games, but I think they are playing it right. I think they're saying things the right way with Lucas Giolito saying that every game is so important here -- it's kind of magnified. You hope they get off to a good start and you never know what might happen because we're basically starting a season at the All-Star break with the amount of games that are going to be played this year. So you hope they get off to really good start and just keep the good feelings going toward the end.
Right now, your job in the radio booth is just for this season. How do you plan on approaching it, understanding that anybody in this business would hope that it's much more than one season?
Yeah, I mean, it is what it is and I have to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to me. I don't change anything I do knowing that. I go into a game trying to prepare as best as I possibly can to have information that is useful for the fan base -- like a good conversation with DJ before a game just to see what direction he wants to go with something. I basically will just do the same job that I always do and that's just call the game as I see it, let you know where the baseball is, let you know what the score is, let you know what inning it is. The fact that it's this season doesn't change one thing for me because I just like to approach it in a very professional manner and let the chips kind of fall where they may.
Most baseball listeners in Chicago -- certainly WGN listeners -- know you from being in the Cubs booth. You went on to San Diego from there. For some White Sox fans that are still getting to know you, can you run through your history in Major League Baseball? Because it's certainly not like you're a rookie here.
No, no, I've had some experience. That's definitely true. I started with WGN the first time around in 1999. I was doing weekend pre- and post-game shows and then Ron Santo got sick with diabetes and lost one of his legs below the knee and the club asked me to travel with him to make sure he was good and he was OK. That kind of morphed into me doing all the pregame shows from every location we were at and then it morphed into half-an-inning of play-by-play, filling in for Pat Hughes every once in a while, and I turned that into getting a job with the San Diego Padres just before the 2007 season. Went through three ownership groups there and did not have my contract renewed after the 2013 season so I decided to come back home to Chicago and WGN was warm enough to welcome me back. I've been there ever since. I did some Blackhawks stuff for them for a little bit, and of course anchoring and reporting and now the last couple of seasons in the White Sox booth. I couldn't be happier. It's worked out very well. WGN is the station I grew up with and grew up as a broadcaster in and I'm really happy this experience is coming with them.
Who are some of your biggest broadcast influencers? The people who have had a big impact on your career?
There's a lot of them, actually. In Chicago, when I first came back from college, Jeff Joniak was very instrumental in helping me out, giving me an opportunity to do some sports on the old WMAQ and also WBBM. Basically, that's what helped me get the job at WGN to begin with in 1999. Jeff is one of these guys who is a dear friend, a tremendous broadcaster, but as a friend, he's a guy who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear and he's been a great sounding board for that. He's been a great influence in my life and my career. I loved my time with Pat Hughes, the professional broadcaster that he is. Taught me a lot about the play-by-play aspect of things and how to take yourself a little less seriously than you probably need to during a broadcast. Yeah, you want to be professional and you want to be identifiable as far as where the ball is and everything like that, but there's a lot of time in baseball for some humor and he certainly has that wit to carry that off. As far as growing up, I grew up listening to a lot of different broadcasters. Vince Lloyd was one of them and Jim Durham was one of my all-time favorites when he was with the Bulls. I hear a lot of him coming out of me when I do basketball games.
I know from watching so many games with you in the booth over the last two years that a player you frequently bring up is Tony Gwynn. What kind of impact did he have on you when you were in San Diego?
Tony was one of these unique individuals that made you feel like you knew him for a long time when you met him for the first time. I remember meeting him for the first time in 2007 and being a little intimidated by him, a large character, and of course, a well-known name, especially in his hometown of San Diego. He could not have been nicer. He was the kind of guy that I would walk up to before a game when he was in the ballpark and just talk hitting with, just to make sure I understood something that was going on in the lineup or if a guy was struggling or something to that effect. And a lot of times when I kind of had a theory and he validated it for me, I really felt good because that guy forgot more about hitting than I'll ever know, just the way that he approached the game and just the way he was so successful in it. But he was just a great guy to be around, not only for the stories, but just because he had that laugh that I think that anybody that ever met him or knew him at all, you heard that laugh and you knew he was close. And I was fortunate that I got to work several games on television with him in 2012 and I cherish those games because it was just like two guys sitting in a TV booth watching a baseball game and just talking. I miss that guy. I miss him a lot.
The last question is the most important: How will you possibly get through his season without me being in the same booth?
We are going to do our absolute best. We are hoping that you will take an opportunity every once in a while to come visit us. Whether it's just popping in to say hello or making sure you're on time with the pregame show because that is something that really does affect things in the booth. Please bring food.
Yeah, without Ed around, you guys might be starving.
I know. We're going to have to rely on DJ's connections now because I don't have any.