When the White Sox announced ESPN 1000 as their new flagship station, I noticed that they hadn’t announced the actual announcer along with it.
Andy Masur had done a capable job stepping into the booth in relief of an ailing Ed Farmer, both on a fill-in basis in 2019, then as the everyday announcer after Farmer’s death in April. Yet between the passing of Farmer, the broadcasters’ inability to travel with teams during the pandemic, and then the shift from WGN 720 to ESPN 1000, the White Sox radio booth didn’t quite feel like Masur’s for good, and the absence of a named radio pairing during the flagship reveal suggested a bigger change in store.
Well, Len Kasper is coming over from the Cubs’ TV booth to call White Sox games on the radio alongside Darrin Jackson, and it’s hard to think of a bigger change in Chicago broadcasting than that.
As the Cubs start a busy offseason, one of the biggest departures is coming from the broadcast booth. After 16 years as the team’s TV play-by-play man, Len Kasper has decided to leave for the vacant White Sox radio job, according to multiple sources.
The move will be officially announced Friday morning on ESPN 1000, the new radio home of the White Sox. Kasper will team with color analyst Darrin Jackson, who returns for his 13th season in the radio booth and his 22nd overall with the team.
Sharma says the Cubs are looking at veteran national broadcaster Chris Myers as Kasper’s replacement, while Jim Deshaies will remain in the analyst chair across town.
This move is a stunner. Kasper had been the TV voice of the Cubs since 2005, and while a check-in with Bleacher Nation shows Kasper had some detractors, it’s in the similar vein of people who can’t get used to Jason Benetti’s more standard delivery in the wake of an idiosyncratic, Frick-winning legend.
Sharma says Kasper “has always been passionate about radio,” and there’s a foreshadowing of it in a conversation between the two in February:
SS: You’re going to do some more Fox games. Is that just to spread the wings a little bit?
LK: Yeah, I think Marquee wanted to have a little flexibility, which I understand. As you know, I’m a worker bee. I like doing games. This is all I do. I don’t do any other sports. I’ve dabbled in doing two or three Cubs Fox games over the years. I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a Cardinals-Red Sox interleague game or a Dodgers-Braves game. I’ll get that opportunity this year. Hopefully, maybe in the 10-12 (game) range with Fox. Pat (Hughes) misses about a dozen games, so I may hop over to radio and do a small handful of radio games with Ron Coomer just to mix it up. Just to keep your brain fresh and challenged. That will give Chris Myers an opportunity to a few games.
It’s hard to imagine being so passionate about radio that one would go from the Cubs’ TV booth to the White Sox’s radio network. Sharma’s sources indicated no bad blood between Kasper and Marquee Sports Network, but Marquee didn’t have the easiest debut season, what with the pandemic, the dress code and Mark Grace.
TV is generally seen as the more prime gig, and the natural order needed little time to take hold when Steve Stone joined the White Sox as an analyst alongside Farmer in the radio booth for the 2008 season. Hawk Harrelson had Jackson as a partner at the time, but it sure seemed like Jackson’s days were numbered, and sure enough, Stone graduated to the TV booth after the season.
In this case, Kasper doesn’t seem like he’d have designs on the Sox’s TV gig. Benetti looks like the team’s choice for the long haul, and Benetti has cited Kasper as a mentor. Perhaps the 50-year-old Kasper isn’t there to usurp the 37-year-old Benetti, but rather to be on hand should Benetti’s ESPN work land him more prominent jobs. Or, maybe Kasper really just wants to do radio for the foreseeable future, and Pat Hughes isn’t leaving Wrigley Field anytime soon.
Is it possible that this move is just that pure? We’ll have to wait to hear otherwise.
* * * * * * * * *
Update (9:15 a.m.): The White Sox made it official with a press release, and Kasper is indeed sticking to his story.
“Broadcasting baseball on the radio has always been my dream,” Kasper said. “I am happy the White Sox were interested in having me handle their play-by-play responsibilities, and I am appreciative that the Cubs were willing to let me leave that organization on such great terms. I have always been fascinated by the creative freedom radio allows its broadcasters, and baseball is such a great game when presented on the radio. I have been dreaming about doing this since I was 12 years old, listening to Ernie Harwell, and I didn’t want my career to pass without experiencing this great game nightly from the radio booth. I want to thank both the Sox and Cubs for allowing me to live out this baseball dream.”
His friendship with Benetti also seems to play a part:
In addition to his radio duties, Kasper will serve as a member of the television announcing team for approximately 20-25 games on NBC Sports Chicago depending upon schedules during the season. Kasper and television play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti plan to collaborate in creating several multimedia projects throughout the year, connecting White Sox baseball with fans in new ways.