I seem to be writing a lot of these “appreciation” articles these days. It is a sign of where the Cubs organization stands during the baseball winter of 2020-21.
The most important thing I want to say about Len Kasper, whose sudden departure from the Cubs TV booth to the White Sox radio booth stunned us all, is that he will be missed while we can still hear him broadcasting for another team.
That sounds like a normal thing to say when someone you have enjoyed as a performer leaves that position, but the reason it’s important is that this wasn’t the case with any of the three men who preceded him in the post as Cubs play-by-play man on television. Jack Brickhouse retired. Harry Caray passed away. Chip Caray departed under uncertain circumstances when his contract expired.
But Len was beloved by Cubs fans and generally considered in the top tier of MLB television broadcasters — not just for the Cubs, but for the national work he did on occasion for Fox-TV. Personally, I will miss him because he was always cordial to me whenever I met up with him, or had a question that he quickly answered by email, and also for the several Q-and-A’s he did for us here at Bleed Cubbie Blue and his appearance last spring during baseball’s hiatus on our podcast.
He’s just an all-around good guy, and while he’ll still be in Chicago and his broadcasts will certainly be accessible to anyone in the Chicago metro area (and nationally through the MLB app), it will be very odd to hear him calling White Sox games instead of Cubs games.
You might have seen these two home run calls floating around Twitter Friday as a couple of Len’s best, and I wanted to share them here, two memorable moments.
The first was one of the biggest walkoff homers in recent Cubs history, one that’s said to have helped galvanize the team to their N.L. Central title in 2007.
Aramis Ramirez walks it off against the Brewers, June 29, 2007 [VIDEO].
You can hear the pure joy and thrill in Len’s voice.
The other one was a tribute. On June 12, 2008, WGN-TV did a special broadcast honoring their 60th anniversary of broadcasting Cubs games. During the broadcast, they did various TV styles, from black & white with only a couple of cameras, then moving forward in time to modern-day TV.
In the ninth inning with one out and the Cubs down 2-1 to the Braves, Jim Edmonds came to bat, having been with the Cubs just one month. He sent a Blaine Boyer pitch into the left-field bleachers and Kasper rose to the occasion with a Jack Brickhouse tribute call [VIDEO].
Len didn’t miss a beat on that call, didn’t hesitate, went right into a Brickhouse “Hey! Hey!” home-run call. The Cubs eventually won that game 3-2 in the 12th inning when Reed Johnson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
That’s the sort of thing we got all the time from Len Kasper. Attention to detail and understanding what his audience wanted and needed. Despite growing up in Michigan as a Tigers fan, Len embraced Cubs culture and the whole Cubs experience, sometimes broadcasting from the bleachers as Harry Caray had done in years gone by.
It is that kind of thing we will miss, the connection of broadcaster to fan, the understanding that he understood us. Perhaps Len’s replacement will embrace this sort of thing as well. Whoever it is, he ought to. That’s one thing we as Cubs fans have always treasured, that connection with our broadcasters, like he was one of us. It’s something, frankly, that Marquee Sports Network seems to have forgotten, or perhaps hasn’t yet quite perfected. Players come and go, but broadcasters keep connections between generations. Marquee would be well-advised to hire someone who can grow into the position as well as Len Kasper did in his 16 seasons behind the Cubs TV microphone. Len was a treasure for all of us.
We will indeed miss you, Len, and I wish you all the best to you in your new job and hope we will get a worthy successor to you. That broadcaster will be just the fifth full-time TV play-by-play voice in Cubs television history, in 2021 entering its 76th season since WBKB first aired a Cubs game on TV April 23, 1946.