White Sox

One-time White Sox ‘Mr. Smoke’ Bart Johnson dies at 70 after long career as scout

By  Dr. David J. Fletcher, CBM President

Bart Johnson as a teen-age hard thrower who soon got his "Mr. Smoke" nickname.

Bart Johnson as a teen-age hard thrower who soon got his “Mr. Smoke” nickname.

Bart Johnson, the free-spirited White Sox right-hander from Torrance, Calif. nicknamed “Mr. Smoke” for his 95 mph fastball, died April 22 in Palos Hills, Ill.  He suffered from complications from Parkinson’s disease, with which he was afflicted for a number of years.

The Sox’s No. 1 draft pick in 1968, Johnson, 70, spent 30 years with the organization – 12 as a player and 18 as a scout. He became a lifelong Chicago-area resident, making his home in southwest suburban Oak Lawn with his wife Nora.

The 6-foot-5 Johnson, whose birth name was Clair Barth Johnson, played his entire eight-year MLB career (1969-74, 1976-77) as a Sox, then scouted from 1980 to 1997, discovering future White Sox GM Kenny Williams, among others. He flirted briefly with coming out of retirement in 1985 at age 35 at the urging of Roland Hemond, then Sox GM.

For Sox fans, who had seen the franchise go from narrowly missing the pennant in 1967 to utter free-fall  in 1969-70 with talk of a franchise relocation,  the arrival of Johnson on the scene in late’69 as a 19 year-old provided hope. Johnson was followed to the majors by fellow home-grown  hard throwers in future Hall of Famer Goose Gossage and Terry Forester.

Johnson was touted as a future Nolan Ryan. For two seasons, (1971 and 1974) he was a budding star, but injuries shortened his promising career.

Before he had signed with the Sox after being scouted by George Norga and Doc Bennet, Johnson had considered a career in basketball as he was named to several high school All-America teams.

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Tributes pour in after White Sox play-by-play man Ed Farmer’s death

Tributes are pouring in after White Sox play-by-play man Farmer’s death the other day at 70, having fought the good fight against kidney disease for decades.

Ed Farmer

By George Castle, CBM Historian, April 3, 2020

You always treasure a native Chicagoan rising high in media as sometimes such a status seems a detriment to hiring in a “destination market” like the Second City.

Non-natives hiring non-natives gets expressed in the TV newsperson pronouncing Devon Avenue as “DEE-VON” or the baseball beat writer from Seattle having to spend his entire first season on the job educating himself about Cubs 101.

No worries about Ed Farmer, though. Tributes are pouring in after White Sox play-by-play man Farmer’s death the other day at 70, having fought the good fight against kidney disease for decades.

WGN may brand itself “Chicago’s Very Own” (“Chicago’s Own Television Station” back in the 1960s), but Farmio surely was our “Very Own.” I’d rather have someone not a classic, dulcet-toned announcer work at the top of the food chain if he can talk the city’s language, customs and history.

Farmio may have received brickbats from baseball-broadcast purists for a near-laconic, conversational on-air style, yet status as an authentic Chicagoan overrides these picky details. More specifically, a St. Rita man. The Southwest Side Catholic high school, home to so much athletic success this past century, is such a quintessential representation of the city, an amalgamation of neighborhoods and parishes from which residents drew their identities.

In remembering Farmio, Cubs color analyst Ron Coomer provided a glimpse into the academic and athletic culture of St. Rita that helped shape the former. Coomer, whose early years were spent living near Midway Airport, attended St. Rita his first two years before the family moved to southwest suburban Lockport.

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