These days I find myself avoiding Twitter, and for once, it’s not because of politics. It seems like every time I open the app, someone is breaking news about the end of another era for Cubs fans. In 2020, we’ve already possibly seen Jon Lester throw his final pitch in a Cubs uniform. We said goodbye to Theo Epstein, Kyle Schwarber, and Albert Almora. Despite how hard some of these moments have been, for me, nothing touches how I feel about saying goodbye to Len Kasper.
For sixteen years, Cubs fans have been treated to one of the best play-by-play television broadcasters in the business. Whether it was the memorable calls of walk-off homers or the silly but lovable banter with his color commentators over the years, Kasper brought a passion to the broadcast booth that was infectious. Sure, some might argue that he was “too much” of a homer. There was no question who he was rooting for, and he was never ashamed to get caught up in the moment. In my opinion, however, that is exactly what a fan should want out of a hometown broadcaster.
His list of memorable moments is nearly innumerable. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Aramis Ramirez’s walk-off homer against the Brewers
- Greg Maddux’s 3000th strikeout
- Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter
- Kris Bryant’s 1st-career walk-off homer to cap a wild seven-run comeback in the final 3 inning
- Jason Heyward’s walk-off grand slam
- Jake Arrieta’s second no-hitter
Out of these, I want to dive into the Maddux’s 3000th strikeout. There is no doubt that Cubs fans will always remember the passion-induced voice cracks and the “oh baby’s!” but the Maddux call highlights one of Kasper’s best traits. He knew when to step aside and let the moment take centerstage. His call was simple.
“Struck him out looking. There it is!”
Kasper could have waxed poetic and made that moment as much about is his eloquent call as it was about Greg Maddux, but instead, he chose to get out of the way. He allowed the fans watching on TV to join those lucky enough to be in the stands. We all had the opportunity to listen to the stadium announcer memorialize the moment. That, to me, is the humility that made Len one of the best.
Perhaps most glaring from my list above are the calls that are not on there. Notice that Kasper did not get to call the first Arrieta no-hitter. David Bote’s walk-off grand slam went to another broadcaster. Missing too are the playoff wins, the World Series. I mention this because this is a significant factor in why we are saying goodbye to such a fantastic play-by-play man.
As Sahadev Sharma wrote in breaking the news for the Athletic, “It’s also well known that Kasper has always wanted to call a World Series. With games on national television come playoff time, this would be Kasper’s best chance.” Add that to the fact that Kasper has always been passionate about radio, the writing has been on the proverbial wall for quite some time. The Cubs already have a living legend in the radio booth in Pat Hughes. Kasper’s path to living his dream was blocked.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kasper has answered the siren call of radio play-by-play. There is something old-school about him. Maybe it’s the fact that he eschews the modern headset for the traditional microphone. It could be his obsession with keeping score meticulously in an app of his own creation. Perhaps it is the tone of his voice that harkens back to the bygone era of scratchy AM radio. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but Len has always struck me as a bit of a throwback. As good as he was on television, I had really enjoyed his stints on the radio when he stepped in for Pat during spring training or joined the radio team in the fifth. It just suits him.
So, as hard as it is to say goodbye to a broadcaster that has provided the soundtrack to this era of Cubs baseball—the most successful in franchise history—I can’t help but feel happy for him as he writes the next chapter in his already storied career. The White Sox are getting one of the best in the business. Thank you for the memories, Len Kasper. You will be sorely missed.
Featured Photo: John J. Kim~Sun-Times
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