12/28 RIP, Jimmy Farrell
You probably never noticed Jimmy Farrell. He’d prefer it that way. Farrell was the umpires clubhouse attendant at Wrigley Field, starting in 1982, and held that job until 2007. He loved his work.
Farrell passed away this week. He was 91.
In a 2000 interview for my book, “Banks to Sandberg to Grace,” he talked about his job and some of the fun he had.
“I haven’t met a bad umpire since I’ve been here,” he said. “We have a lot of fun over the years, like Joe West, for instance. At the All-Star Game one time — this is going back. The umpires tip me. They tip me pretty good. When I got home, I told my wife Eleanor what I had. So, Joe West sees her the next day and he says, ‘Oh, Eleanor, did Jimmy buy you a fur coat with the money he made?’ and he told her how much I made.
“See, I cheated a little bit on Eleanor that time,” Farrell said, sheepishly. “A little bit, you know. She says, ‘Jimmy, Joe West told me you made such and such.’ I said, ‘He’s kidding you. You know how Joe is. He’s kidding you.’
“So, Harry Wendlestedt is the crew chief at the time, and the next time they come in, I said, ‘Harry, you once told me that everything that’s said in this clubhouse stays here. One of these umpires told my wife something he shouldn’t have told.’ And, Harry said, ‘What?’
“And so I told him,” Farrell said. “Harry fined him $50 for that.”
Farrell could be spotted during games standing near the middle steps of the Cubs dugout. That spot nearly proved dangerous in 1991 when Andre Dawson, upset at West’s calls in a game, hurled a bunch of bats from the dugout onto the field in anger. The bats nearly hit Farrell in the head. Dawson later apologized to Farrell, not West.
Before every game, Farrell would take the game ball to the mound, and once left a rabbit’s foot for Rick Sutcliffe, who picked it up, put it in his pocket, and won that day. Farrell put a penny on the mound one time for Dickie Noles, which he kept.
Farrell also would join in the gag when the umpires asked an unsuspecting bat boy to find the key to the bullpen.
The umpire’s room used to be near the Cubs clubhouse and was a popular spot before the team created a video room. The Cubs players would sneak in to watch the television and see how the opposing pitcher was throwing. Players also would stop by just to chat with Farrell, a trusting grandfatherly type. Ryne Sandberg and Kerry Wood were among his favorites.
Farrell and his wife, Eleanor, were married for 68 years prior to her death. He is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Services are pending.
– Carrie Muskat