Len Kasper leaves Cubs to join White Sox radio booth (updated)

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.

Sahadev Sharma broke the story on The Athletic.

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.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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tommytwonines

Wow!

I end up listening to quite a few games on the radio, so this is great news. Too bad for Masur, but Kasper is an upgrade.

Funny aside- someone updated Kasper’s Wiki bio and one of the lines reads: “He left the Chicago Cubs on December 3, 2020 for the White Sox to be a traitor just like Steve Stone.” I took a screenshot because it’ll be gone in the morning (as it should be).

chisoxt

Can you share?

tommytwonines

If it’s okay with Jim. Should I have written that in bold?

snoopy369

I don’t see your exact wording, but this has the “certified traitor” in it… https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Len_Kasper&oldid=992234672

asinwreck

And the profile box is something.

Name: Len Joseph ‘Traitor’ Kasper
Title: Traitor

tommytwonines

Well I think this proves the point. Plus I spent a minute trying to upload the image from my IPhone camera photos and gave up. Sue me.

DrCrawdad

I wondered what was up when it was announced the Sox were switching to ESPN that Mazur wasn’t announced as the radio play by play guy. Too bad for Andy.

Milky✌️

Well, that was unexpected. In normal years I do end up listening for a good percentage of games, despite never really loving the broadcast, so I’m excited for the shake up. I do feel sorry for Masur. He seemed adept enough, but with the pandemic I was home a lot more to watch the TV broadcasts so I can’t say that with too much authority.

tommytwonines

In the eighties, Harry Caray used to leave the tv booth during innings 4-6 to do radio, as I recall. I wonder if Benetti/Kasper/Sox have considered that approach, flipping the play-by-play guys for a few innings. Benetti’s secure enough and I think it creates a neat element to both broadcasts.

vanillablue

I thought Caray would flip to radio in the middle innings so he could polish off a six pack.

metasox

Holy Cow!

Brett R. Bobysud

If the replacement is indeed Myers, I feel a bit sorry for Cub fans because the drop-off in quality is likely to be stark.

I was a pretty big NASCAR fan in the early 2000s when Myers was a studio host for FOX and he wasn’t good back then and it doesn’t seem like he’s improved much at all in the two decades since (I feel old).

asinwreck

The Sox now employ the two best broadcasters the Cubs have had this century. The Sox may also have the best pair of play-by-play announcers currently working (depending on how you feel about Joe Davis and Jaime Jarrin).

Kasper strikes me as too considerate a person to bash his old bosses, but I’ve only heard bad things about working for Sinclair media outlets. This is not the future the Cubs envisioned when they unveiled Marquee.

metasox

I didn’t realize the Sinclair connection, but that could be part of it

DrCrawdad

I agree. I find it hard to believe Kasper left the Cubs TV gig for the Sox radio gig (tangential point, ESPN has a terrible signal her in Naperville/Lisle in the evenings.) I’d bet Kasper wasn’t thrilled with some combo of the RWNJ’s in the Ricketts family and Sinclair.

Brett R. Bobysud

Could definitely imagine a scenario where an open radio spot in the same city would entice him to leave a situation (Marquee) he was less than happy with, especially if Pat Hughes isn’t going to be leaving the Cubs radio booth anytime soon.

spacemanbob

Does this mean I have to apologize for ripping Len on Twitter for overstating the Coors Field effect in 2018? (by coincidence a topic which I know has been discussed here recently

dwjm3

The business side of the organization that Reinsdorf tends to stay out of makes much more impressive hirings. If only he would stop meddling with the baseball side

Neat_on_the_rocks

Wow, its difficult to understate how huge a move this is. I’m extremely excited, this is a major major upgrade. All respect to Masur who is a total professional. But if you have the opportunity to land Len Kasper for Radio, you take it.

I’m really excited to see what Len and Benetti have in store for us on the creative side. Also if Kasper remains with the team it will soften the blow somewhat whenever it is Benetti moves on to better things – which I personally see as inevitable eventually.

This unironically as the chance to be the biggest free agent acquisition the Sox make this offseason. Lets hope its not, but honestly, they could do worse LOL.

Drdoctor

Plus, a quick change in the twitter handle from “lenandjd” to “lenanddj”!

gibby32

“overstate”

MrStealYoBase

Pretty excited for the radio broadcasts to be a reason to tune in rather than just what you put one when there’s no other option.

Now they just need to bring back Chris Rongey for the post game show!

andyfaust

I would have preferred Dave Wills. But this is good.

John

Same here!

Gutteridge70

This was a completely unforeseen but stunning upgrade. Though a great human being I never liked Farmer’s play by play which at times was unbearable . Mazur was an improvement but Kasper is one of the best play by play announcers in all of sports. White Sox broadcasting has improved immeasurably in the past 15 years with the hiring of Stone the retiring of” he who shall not be named” and now the hiring of Kasper who left a more nationally prestigious gig to come to the south side.. The platinum age of Sox broadcasting is now here now hopefully the product on the field will hold up its end. .

Right Size Wrong Shape

Hawk

asinwreck

James Fegan’s story indicates the idea for Kasper to join the Sox was Kasper’s.

Kasper has known White Sox chief revenue and marketing officer Brooks Boyer for long enough, that Boyer said when Kasper called him earlier this week, he expected it was to give him a recommendation on whom he should interview to replace Andy Masur as the radio play-by-play announcer. After all, before the 2016 season, when Boyer was trying to hire Hawk Harrelson’s heir apparent, he had reached out to Kasper for advice.

“I know the one name I gave him and said, ‘This is the guy you should hire tomorrow,’ is Jason Benetti,” said Kasper in his introductory presser over Zoom. “So Benetti, you’re the next Len Kasper. I don’t know what that makes me, but we’ll figure it out.”

Boyer said he was shocked to hear that Kasper was calling about his interest in the job, which quickly narrowed the White Sox search to a simple game of contacting the Cubs and Marquee for permission to work out a deal for a stunning hire. Benetti’s reaction was a similar level of stupefied glee.

“This is happening?” Benetti said was his first thought. “Really? We’re doing this?”

metasox

I want to see Benetti dial it up to “stupefied glee”

asinwreck

Apparently Benetti and Kasper are planning a podcast and maybe even Twitch segments together, so we may see that!