New Cubs broadcaster delivers wit & wisdom

Updated 12/5/2012 5:57 PM
  • Former Astros pitcher and team broadcaster Jim Deshaies was hired to replace Bob Brenly in the Cubs broadcast booth.

    Former Astros pitcher and team broadcaster Jim Deshaies was hired to replace Bob Brenly in the Cubs broadcast booth.

After listening to and talking with Jim Deshaies for a little while Wednesday, there was no doubt: This guy indeed is a lefty.

"That's accurate," Deshaies said after being introduced to the Chicago media as the Cubs' new TV analyst. "I'm very left-handed."

As a fellow left-hander, I get it. We southpaws are a little south of normal.

For Cubs fans, that's good news as telecasts of Cubs games for the next few years should be a lot of fun. Deshaies, a former pitcher, agreed to a four-year deal to broadcast Cubs games on WGN and Comcast SportsNet alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper.

Since 2005, Kasper and Bob Brenly developed a great chemistry in the booth, and all parties agreed that finding a good match for Kasper was important.

"We really wanted to find someone who would blend well with Len, and his help was terrific here," said Crane Kenney, the Cubs' president of business operations. "We have all those in Jim. I think anybody who knows Jim's work would agree with us that his work is just absolutely at the top of the game.

"In getting to know Jim through some dinners and some calls, we really got to see why it is people love him so much, and why the people in Houston were so upset about his leaving."

Indeed, Deshaies built up quite a following in Houston, and he likened his departure to "breaking up the band."

After all, the 52-year-old Deshaies pitched for the Astros from 1985-91 and broadcast their games since 1997.

WGN's Bob Vorwald led the search for Brenly's replacement, and instead of going with an analyst with Cubs connections, such as Todd Hollandsworth or Eric Karros, he went with Deshaies.

"This guy has a great reputation," Vorwald said. "He's a guy I'd see on the other side of the glass (the next booth) and how he goes about his business and somebody in whom we were really intrigued and wanted to get to know.

"We brought him up here, and he did everything right in this process."

Brenly won over many Cubs fans with his blunt style, which could be biting when the Cubs had a bad record, such as this year's 61-101 mark.

Deshaies described himself as honest and fair but used an anecdote to illustrate how he understands the need to be critical when it's warranted.

"That's the cool thing about Chicago. Everybody is into the Cubs," Deshaies said, explaining his encounter with a fan working behind a rental car counter. "I'm checking in at the rental car, and the lady is helping me out. I slide my license in and say, 'Jim Deshaies.'

"The guy over here, the other cashier, his eyes pop up: 'I just heard you on the radio. You got to be critical here.'

"I said, 'it's OK.'"

At the same time, Deshaies and Vorwald said no pressure has come from the Cubs to soft-pedal criticism.

"I can tell you honestly that I have never had or been in a conversation -- and this goes back to Stoney (Steve Stone) and Chip (Caray) -- where we told the announcers what they could or couldn't say," Vorwald said, referring to past Cubs TV announcers.

"Quite frankly, you want somebody who's frank because otherwise the fans are going to see right through that. You want somebody who is genuine, who is what they are."

The Astros have moved from the National League to the American League, but Deshaies said that played no part in his leaving Houston.

"I actually had come around to being enthused about going to some different cities," he said. "You get one rodeo, right? You live once. Have some fun. Enjoy the journey. But when this (Chicago) came up, it's a little better rodeo. Change is good.

"Crane talked about the Cubs, the passion of the Cub fans. I get that. It's so much fun to be in a city where baseball is relevant regardless of what kind of year the team is having.

"This place is a baseball-mad environment. The Astro guy had a hard time leaving Houston. The baseball guy says this is the place to be."

•Bruce Miles will have more interesting tidbits from Jim Deshaies on the Daily Herald's baseball blog, Chicago's Inside Pitch.

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