Of all the potential Cubs shakeups this winter, this one is easily the most shocking. According to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, Len Kasper is leaving the TV booth after 16 years calling Cubs games to join ESPN 1000 as the new voice of the White Sox.
This is not a drill.
In addition to his play-by-play duties with color man Darrin Jackson, who will be in his 13th season on Sox radio and 22nd overall with the team, Kasper will be in the TV booth for 20-25 games on NBC Sports Chicago as the schedule allows. Sharma reports that ESPN and Fox Sports alum Chris Myers is the leading candidate to replace Kasper after joining Marquee in more of a part-time role this past season and Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago writes that Myers will indeed be taking over.
“Len has been a fantastic play-by-play man for several years here with the Chicago Cubs, and we wish him nothing but the best in this new endeavor,” read a statement from Marquee General Manager Mike McCarthy. “Len is chasing a dream which he and I have discussed many times. We made a significant effort to retain Len, but he was resolute that moving to the White Sox radio position was his desire.
“We honor that and now begin the process of filling what is one of the premiere [sic] jobs in sports – play-by-play for the Chicago Cubs. We have already received interest from several prominent candidates who look at the job as anybody would – as a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with one of the most iconic franchises in sports.”
This is exactly what you’d expect to hear, but I still can’t help thinking there’s probably a lot more to this story than will ever be released publicly. Kasper has a deep affinity for radio, so perhaps it’s just a matter of wanting to follow that passion. Then again, he never seemed entirely comfortable with Marquee’s three-man booths, awkward segments involving historical memorabilia, or the requirement that he and Jim Deshaies wear suits on air. He may have seen all the other changes with the team as an opportunity to get while the getting was good.
“Anyone who has known me for more than a day in this business understands how I was drawn to the game of baseball,” Kasper told ESPN 1000 following the official announcement of his move. “I wanted to be Ernie Harwell.
“The timing of this was simply there was an opportunity available that I had long thought about.”
He went on to say that any anger from fans should be directed solely at him since the Cubs did everything they could to keep him and that leaving was entirely his call. Not that he’d have thrown his old organization or Marquee under the bus under any circumstances.
While I know there are more than a few Philistines who didn’t appreciate Kasper’s wry humor and frequent musical interludes, he’s one of the best in the business and he’ll be missed. I can’t help but think that this will push Cubs’ TV broadcasts even further into more staid corporate territory, something that both saddens and angers me.
Good luck on the move, Len, and thanks for all your work on the North Side. May you find your passion renewed and may I be wrong in believing that Cubs on Marquee just got significantly less interesting.