The Obit For James Farrar

Local coaching legend James Farrar dies

By Jason Pugh
Oct 30, 2012

As a baseball scout, James Farrar was the man who brought J.R. Richard and Roy Oswalt to the Houston Astros.

To those who knew him, Farrar’s reputation went much deeper.

Farrar, a former high school football and baseball coach as well as the former Centenary College head baseball coach, died Tuesday morning after a long battle with leukemia. Farrar was 81 years old and previously battled colon cancer, brain cancer and heart issues.

Visitation is scheduled for Friday evening at Rose-Neath Funeral Home on Marshall Street. Funeral arrangements have been made for 11 a.m. at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Shreveport.

“It’s a great loss,” said Northwood athletic director Jerry Burton, who coached under Farrar at the school. “You couldn’t find anyone who disliked James Farrar.”

Raised in the community of Lillie, near Bernice, Farrar became a Shreveport coaching staple, starting at Fair Park High School before moving to Northwood and, eventually, Centenary College, where he was both a coach and a professor.

At Fair Park, he skippered back-to-back state championship baseball teams in 1964 and 1965 that compiled a combined record of 77-7-1. At Centenary, he coached the Gents to a 186-162-1 record.

His pre-coaching life included a stint in the Army, something that provided a sense of pride and helped develop an attention to detail that was evident in his professional life.

“He ran the show, but you respected that,” said Howard Beach, who played football and baseball for Farrar at Northwood. “It’s hard to explain, but he could get everything out of a boy. Just when he looked at you, you wanted to do good for him.”

Farrar balanced his professional duties with devotion to his family that included wife Kate, who died in 2008; son, Roman, and daughters Melody and Tammy.

His former players remained in his thoughts — even during a lifetime spent scouring the Southeast for the next Richard or Oswalt.

“When my son was killed Christmas Eve 1998, (Farrar) was out scouting,” said Lonzo Lanier, who played football for Farrar at Northwood. “He called me and talked to me for an hour. He made sure to tell me if me, my wife or daughter needed anything, let him know. He would have given it to us. That’s the kind of man he was.”

Farrar’s professional eye earned him the unwavering support of the Houston Astros organization.

Farrar combed small towns in Louisiana and Mississippi to unearth two of the franchise’s top right-handed pitchers. He signed Richard from Vienna, a community located just north of Ruston, in 1969 and watched him turn into one of the National League’s top strikeout artists.

Oswalt was the final gem of Farrar’s decorated scouting career — one that included being named Houston’s Scout of the Year in 2002 at age 71. Farrar found the slender right-hander from Weir, Miss., pitching for Holmes Community College and convinced the Astros to sign Oswalt as a draft-and-follow.

Oswalt became the 2005 National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player and maintained a relationship with Farrar, one that included a phone call that morphed into about a 30-minute conversation last month as Farrar continued to battle leukemia.

“I don’t know how to say it, but words really escape you when you describe that fella,” said Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, another of Farrar’s former Northwood players. “He had such a gift, and he didn’t waste it.”