Kasper shifts from the North Side to the South Side in a new role
In a stunning move first reported by The Athletic late Thursday evening, Cubs play-by-play man Len Kasper signed a deal with the crosstown Chicago White Sox, leaving the North Siders after sixteen seasons.
The move was officially announced Friday morning by the White Sox and their new radio home, ESPN 1000 (WMVP-AM):
In addition, Kasper is going to be part of the NBC Sports Chicago team for 20 to 25 games alongside current announcing team Jason Benetti and Steve Stone, who also worked for the Cubs as a commentator in two separate stints. Kasper could also fill in on the rare occasion Benetti isn’t available, due to college football commitments. Kasper also plans to do multimedia projects for the team.
Kasper replaces longtime voice Ed Farmer, who died last spring at the age of 70. Andy Masur filled in on an interim basis, and was praised by fans for his effort given the trying circumstances of the 2020 baseball season due to Covid. Kasper appeared on David Kaplan’s and Jonathan Hood’s Kap and J Hood show and Waddle and Silvy on ESPN 1000 today to talk about the new position.
Many were shocked at the move given Kasper’s long tenure and his good relationship with the Cubs when the news dropped Thursday night. And on social media, many were pinning the blame on the new Cubs venture with controversial broadcaster Sinclair Broadcasting, Marquee Sports Network but Kasper said there was no animosity between them. Many criticized the Marquee telecasts as being too much with a national feel as the network had Kasper and on-air partner Jim DeShies in suits, as opposed to the casual wear most broadcasters wear in the booth on regional sports networks.
As for Kasper, one huge name surfaced as a replacement – part-time host Chris Myers, who basically does NFL games on Fox and was with ESPN from 1988-98. But this brought a lot of scrutiny:
If this were not bad enough, the rumored replacement is Chris Myers who is, flatly, the worst human being I’ve ever worked with and I once worked with the guy who later blackmailed Letterman #TheNewCubsDroughtHasBegun https://t.co/GeSx3vQ33d— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) December 4, 2020
Friday afternoon, Marquee general manager Mike McCarthy denied reports they had named Myers to the position, and are planning to do a “national search” to replace Kasper.
Cliff notes from Crane/McCarthy presser— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) December 4, 2020
•People love Len Kasper
•#Cubs HAVE NOT named anyone to the position, just beginning their search
•Will have an opportunity to take a swing at a big name. Looking for someone who fits Cubs culture.
•People REALLY love Len Kasper
Can’t get any clearer than that.
As mentioned above with Steve Stone, this isn’t the first time broadcasters worked both sides of town as Jack Brickhouse did both Cubs and White Sox games when the latter team had their first run on WGN-TV. Another prominent name who worked for both teams was Haray Caray, who signed a deal with the Cubs in November 1981 to take over play-by-play duties from a retiring Jack Brickhouse after a decade with the White Sox, who helped rejuvenate a dead Wrigley Field and became a huge icon.
Ironically compared to now, a major factor in Caray’s decision was the ability to reach more people as the Cubs had all 162 games on broadcast (“free”) TV, as opposed to the White Sox, where over half of their games were on a subscription pay-TV service called Sportsvision.
While some may think this is a step down for Kasper, this isn’t really the case – he really loved doing baseball games on the radio, and the White Sox offered him an opportunity. Kasper did radio work for Cubs’ games on WSCR-AM, including pre-game shows, during the fifth inning when games were exclusively scheduled on national TV, and was on the field when the Cubs won the World Series in Cleveland four years ago. The new White Sox job provides him to do something he always wanted to do.