White Sox

Remember That Guy: Rocky Biddle

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AP Images

Remember That Guy: Rocky Biddle

The movie Rocky premiered on November 21, 1976. However, exactly six months earlier, Lee Francis Biddle was born in Las Vegas. You may remember him by his nickname, Rocky.

The 6’3” 230 lb righthander was drafted by the Padres out of Temple City (CA) High School in the 25th round in 1994, but did not sign. He did sign, however, when the White Sox took him with the 51st overall pick in 1997 out of Long Beach State. The Sox selected Jim Parque five picks before Biddle, who was one of five White Sox compensation picks at the end of the first round; his selection was awarded to the White Sox for failure to sign 12th overall pick Bobby Seay the year prior.

Rocky’s road to the Majors was detoured by Tommy John Surgery on March 2, 1999 which wiped out his entire season. When he returned to the mound in 2000 for Birmingham, he thrived, finishing up at 11-6 with a 3.08 ERA, including a pair of shutouts and a Southern League All-Star nod.

The big righthander got the call to the Majors on August 10 as Manager Jerry Manuel wanted to break up lefties Mike Sirotka & Jim Parque in the rotation. Biddle was the fourth White Sox pitcher to debut in the Majors since July 1, after Jon Garland (July 4), Mark Buehrle (July 16) & Lorenzo Barcelo (July 22), which was unusual for a team with an 8-game lead in their division, but the Sox rolled with their rookies (as well as veteran James Baldwin) all the way to an AL Central title at 95-67.

A demotion for Kip Wells & elbow injury for Cal Eldred opened up a spot for Biddle to stay. Rocky the rookie had a rough start in his debut (8 Hits, 6 Runs in 5.1 innings) but a veteran spoke up in his defense (quote from the Chicago Tribune):

"The guy has major-league stuff," Frank Thomas said. "He handled [Alex] Rodriguez, [Edgar] Martinez and [John] Olerud, three of the best hitters in the game. They were 0 for 9 against him. He looked like a veteran. So, he made some mistakes to [Mike] Cameron and [Joe] Oliver ... so what? Those are two good hitters too. Rocky doesn't deserve that kind of [criticism] after one start. Give the kid a chance. He's going to be a very good pitcher."

After all, not many pitchers can claim to have retired Alex Rodriguez AND Edgar Martinez in their first career Major League inning.

Biddle readied himself for his next start by kicking a hacky sack in front of his locker. When asked for comment, he said:

"No one else plays it here, I guess it's not kosher."

Maybe it worked. He collected his first career win in that second start, August 15 at Baltimore, as the White Sox went on to win big, 14-4.

Biddle did just fine, with six hits and four runs allowed in seven innings before being relieved by Mark Buehrle. There was a piece of White Sox history hidden in the box score of Rocky Biddle’s first big league win: future Hall of Famer Harold Baines hit his final career MLB home run (#384) – a 3-run blast off Jason Johnson in the 4th inning to give the Sox a 9-2 lead.

After the win, Rocky received a cold beer shower and when asked about it he replied ` . . . I think it froze part of my brain.'

Unfortunately, Biddle’s run of success was short-lived. He allowed 15 runs (11 earned) over his next two starts before being sent back down for the remainder of the season. He posted an ERA of 8.34 in his first taste of MLB action.

Biddle competed for the fifth spot in the rotation in spring 2001. A 9.42 ERA in eight spring appearances didn’t help his cause, though he still made the roster as a reliever. A few weeks into the season Biddle was back in the rotation due to Cal Eldred’s continued injury struggles. 2001 was a big letdown for the White Sox, falling to third in the standings, as Jim Parque & new addition David Wells went down with injuries. Even Frank Thomas suffered a season-ending arm injury while diving for a ball in May. Eventually Biddle himself needed shoulder surgery at the end of the season. He started 2002 on the DL and when he was healthy he spent most of his time in the bullpen with an occasional spot start here and there.

On September 19 he had his best start of the season – his lone quality start of 2002 with six innings of two-run ball against the Royals at Comiskey Park. Unfortunately what should have been remembered as a solid pitcher’s duel between Biddle & Paul Byrd was overshadowed by a father and son duo who attacked Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa in the 9th inning. Biddle finished his season with a win in his next start – a five-inning effort against the Red Sox. It was the last time he pitched for the White Sox.

The White Sox dreamt of a rotation with promising arms such as Rocky Biddle, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Kip Wells & Jon Rauch. While Buehrle & Garland went on to huge things, it never quite happened for the other three.

In January 2003, the White Sox sent Rocky Biddle to Montreal along with Orlando Hernández (who had been acquired from the Yankees that day), Jeff Liefer & cash for Bartolo Colón & minor leaguer Jorge Nuñez.

Biddle posted a 4.65 ERA in 73 relief appearances in his first season for the Expos – not the greatest numbers -  but he did record 34 saves. It’s the last 30+ save season in Montreal Expos history, as well as the only 30-save season by a pitcher born in Nevada, though Brandon Kintzler (29 in 2017) and Mike MacDougal (27 in 2003) both have come really close.

After one more season Biddle was released by the Expos, who not only moved on from Biddle but moved on from Montreal to become the Washington Nationals for 2005.

In five career Major League seasons, Biddle posted a 20-30 record with a 5.47 ERA and 46 saves in 198 games for the White Sox & Expos. He’s one of four Rockys in White Sox history, along with Rocky Krsnich (1949, 1952-53), Rocky Nelson (1951) & Rocky Colavito (1967).

Rocky Biddle. Remember that guy? 

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White Sox pitcher and radio broadcaster Ed Farmer passes away

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White Sox

White Sox pitcher and radio broadcaster Ed Farmer passes away

The Chicago White Sox are feeling the loss of one of their dearest family members.

Ed Farmer passed away Wednesday night.  The former White Sox pitcher and longtime radio broadcaster was 70.

Born in Evergreen Park on October 18, 1949, the second oldest of nine children, Farmer went to his first White Sox game at old Comiskey Park when he was five.  It was at that game when he told his mother, “Someday I’m going to play here.”

Two decades later, the South Sider not only fullfilled his childhood dream by playing for the White Sox, he’d also make the 1980 All-Star team, pitching two-thirds of an inning at Dodgers Stadium. Those two outs came on one pitch.  Farmer got Pete Rose to hit into a double play.

Farmer set career-highs in saves (30) and wins (7) that season.  He’d pitch 11 years in the majors, three with the White Sox (1979-81).

Although he’d go onto call White Sox games after his playing days were over, Farmer actually had trouble speaking as a child.  He struggled to pronounce words.

“Baseball was a way for me to break through that barrier and have people notice me,” Farmer said in an interview with SoxTV in 2019

When Farmer was a star pitcher at St. Rita High School, he caught the eye of a scout for the Cleveland Indians.  His name was Jerry Krause, the same Krause who’d later win six NBA championships as the general manager of the Bulls in the 1990s.   The Indians drafted Farmer out of high school. Krause eventually became a scout for the White Sox and played a big role in the club acquiring Farmer from the Texas Rangers in 1979, bringing him back to his hometown.

The ties that bind not only shaped Farmer’s life, they would also extend it.

In 1990, Farmer learned that he would die without a kidney transplant. He called his brother Tom to share the bad news.  Almost immediately, Tom offered his brother his kidney. It turned out to be a perfect match.

“It saved my life,” Farmer said.

In 1991, Farmer was back with the White Sox.  This time in the radio booth, calling games with play-by-play man John Rooney.  Darrin Jackson became Farmer’s radio partner in 2009.

While Hawk Harrelson famously cheered in the booth for the White Sox, Farmer was equally as homerish, and wasn’t afraid to admit it.

“We want to win.  You can hear it in my voice,” Farmer once said.

“I’m here to do one job. Do the broadcast, call a White Sox winner, hopefully get to the playoffs and World Series again because I’m a huge White Sox fan as well.”

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: The time A.J. and Marte saved the day

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The time A.J. and Marte saved the day

Sometimes you’ve just got to shout out a game-saving play.

In this instance, the fact that the play was needed was actually the fault of the person who made it. But that’s baseball for you: You always have a chance to make up for what you just did.

On April 23, 2005, the White Sox and the Royals were locked in a two-all tie in the bottom of the ninth of a tilt in Kansas City. Damaso Marte, however, was in a bit of a jam. After Luis Vizcaino gave up the tying run in the previous inning, Marte loaded the bases with one out.

In a pressure-packed moment that could have instantly ended with the White Sox the losers, Marte did not help his own cause by throwing a way-off-the-mark pitch right past A.J. Pierzynski.

The runner on third, Matt Diaz, came home in an attempt to score the game-winning run and walk off the visiting White Sox. But Pierzynski and Marte sprung into action. Pierzynski fed Marte, Marte met Diaz at home and the reliever tagged the runner for the second out of the inning.

Game saved.


You’ve got to love Hawk Harrelson’s call on that one, too: “Here comes the runner! Give it to him! You got him! Yes!”

Marte followed that up with an inning-ending strikeout, allowing the White Sox bats to score the game-winning run in the 10th inning. Ozzie Guillen sent Marte back out for the bottom of the 10th, and Marte went 1-2-3 to lock down the win.

Every championship season — and plenty of those that don’t end with a trophy — features those kinds of game-saving plays. And it was, in general, a game-saving performance by the White Sox bullpen as a whole in this one.

Jose Contreras lasted just 3.1 innings — details on that below — forcing the South Side relief corps into duty for a whopping 6.2 innings. They limited the Royals to just one run.

I talked earlier during our #SoxRewind about how good the White Sox bullpen was, combining with that sensational rotation to make a truly championship-caliber pitching staff. And Adam Hoge wrote about Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts, two of the four White Sox relievers who stepped up to fill the Contreras-less innings in this one.

It’ll be a recurring theme, that great relief.

And on this day back in 2005, a reliever even got in some defensive excellence, too, saving the game for the White Sox.

What else?

— After giving up a leadoff homer to David DeJesus, Contreras was dealing. He struck out six of the last eight batters he faced coming into the bottom of the fourth. But coming off the mound on a ground ball hit by Mike Sweeney, he tweaked something in his leg. After a lot of hobbling around the infield, he faced Matt Stairs, who tried to take advantage of Contreras’ physical condition with a bunt attempt. When Contreras hit Stairs with the next pitch, Guillen took his starting pitcher out of the game. Darrin Jackson was under the impression the hit batter had nothing to do with Contreras’ leg hurting and instead was in retaliation for Stairs’ bunt try. Whatever the reason, perhaps both, Contreras lasted just 3.1 innings, his shortest outing of the 2005 season.

— How good was the White Sox rotation in 2005? Contreras’ 3.1-inning outing April 23 was the shortest start made by any of the team’s top four starters that season. The team experienced just three shorter outings by a starting pitcher in 2005, two by Orlando Hernandez and one by Brandon McCarthy.

— The Royals lost 106 games in 2005, and it's not difficult to see why. Kansas City made mistakes all over the place in this one, including two huge ones in crunch time. Diaz coming home on that wild pitch with the bases loaded and just one out was ill advised and potentially prevented the Royals from scoring the winning run in the ninth. Then in the 10th, the Royals botched a double play, only getting one out when the ball was lost on the transfer at second base. It allowed Pierzynski to stay at first base, and he eventually came around to score the winning run on an Aaron Rowand base hit.

— One of the best pitchers in modern baseball history was not so great in 2005. Zack Greinke was a 21-year-old kid when he faced the White Sox in this one. He was good in this game, giving up only one earned run in his seven innings. But he ended up losing 17 games, the most in the AL, in 2005, finishing the campaign with a 5.80 ERA. Fast forward four years, and Greinke was the AL Cy Young winner thanks to a pencil-thin 2.16 ERA that led the major leagues. In his 16-year big league career, Greinke has finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting five times, turned in six 200-strikeout seasons, made six All-Star teams and won and won six Gold Gloves.

— Pierzynski isn’t the prototypical speed demon. But he motored home from first base on a Juan Uribe double in the second inning. Any sort of good relay would have been sure to nab Pierzynski at the plate. But the Royals couldn’t put that together, and he scored easily. Even Jackson was surprised at the decision to send Pierzynski home: “There's no way he's supposed to send Pierzynski home on that play.” Well, it worked.


— The White Sox 14-4 start was the best through 18 games in club history.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 21, 2005: The White Sox took back-to-back walks to force in a run in the first inning, but Jeremy Bonderman was otherwise strong. The South Siders needed to make a late comeback to topple the Tigers this day, Scott Podsednik driving in a pair with a seventh-inning single to flip a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 win. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 12-4.

April 22, 2005: The White Sox wore out Royals pitching, scoring eight runs on 12 hits, but hit no homers. Podsednik drew three walks and stole three bases. White Sox win, 8-2, improve to 13-4.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Thursday, when you can catch the April 25, 2005, game against the A’s, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Jon Garland goes the distance, and Chris Widger goes deep.

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