Rozner: Cubs' TV voice Kasper joins elite company

  • The Cubs introduced Len Kasper as their new TV play-by-play man in late 2004. He begins his 16th year this season.

    The Cubs introduced Len Kasper as their new TV play-by-play man in late 2004. He begins his 16th year this season. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 1/22/2020 3:08 PM

As is the case with great baseball players midway through their careers, now is about the time you start wondering about Len Kasper's Hall of Fame chances.

Yeah, that happened fast.

 

But if you start doing the math, Kasper -- who enters his 22nd year broadcasting baseball and turns 49 on Tuesday -- figures to have at least another 20 years in him if he wants to do it that long.

And that will land him in the Cooperstown conversation.

Quietly -- well, everything about Kasper is quiet when he's not screaming for a Javy Baez moonshot, as he hates talking about himself -- Kasper has joined Harry Caray in second place on the all-time list of Cubs lead play-by-play TV voices.

"I hadn't done the math. I didn't know that," Kasper said Monday. "I can't even believe that number or how fast it's gone. It feels like a snap of the fingers."

This will be his 16th year at Wrigley Field, same as Caray, and trailing only Jack Brickhouse and his valiant 34 years directing cheers on the North Side, mostly for awful teams.

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There are youngsters graduating from college who have known only Kasper as the voice of Cubs television. That's pretty impressive when you consider it's an entire baseball generation.

"The one regret I have is not getting to know Harry or Jack," said Kasper, who arrived in Chicago seven years after Caray's death. "I was incredibly fortunate to get to know -- and become friends with -- Ernie Harwell, my broadcasting idol.

"But circumstances and age kept me from knowing Harry and Jack. Hopefully, they would be proud of the way I go about the job. I think of them often."

Unlike so many who merely hang around and mail it in once they've established themselves, Kasper continues to work at his craft.

In an ever-changing business, entertainment is entirely necessary as a balance against the analytics that have swallowed up some very dull and unwatchable broadcasts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I'm always working on it," Kasper admitted. "Once you find your voice -- which takes a while -- maintaining it takes work. You have to maintain your place while being open to things that might work."

Which includes outright theft if necessary.

"I told Joe Buck that one key breakthrough for me watching a Fox game was when an inning ended with a huge commotion, he didn't say anything and just kind of let the picture tell the story," Kasper said. "Like 15 to 20 seconds of him not talking. I thought that was brilliant and displayed incredible confidence.

"If you hear that, I'm copying Joe Buck."

And if there's times you think Kasper isn't loud enough, he's absolutely fine with that.

"I don't block people on Twitter, and the biggest criticism I get there is a valid one," Kasper explained. "They say, 'Sometimes you put me to sleep' or 'You're boring.' That criticism never bothers me.

"Ernie Harwell was my hero. He said people would come up to him every day and say, 'I've fallen asleep to your voice a thousand times.'

"Baseball is like golf, a very soothing experience. It's not like hockey or football where your hair is on fire.

"I want it to be comfortable. I'd rather have that than, 'You're annoying. Stop talking. You never shut up.'"

As broadcasters and employees of the team, it's been known for a year in franchise circles that Kasper and partner Jim Deshaies would be leading the Cubs' Marquee Sports Network, but there were some surprise additions, like Chris Myers.

Kasper wanted to dip his toes into the Fox waters, so this season he'll be working about 10 non-Cubs games while Myers fills in.

And when Pat Hughes takes a few days off, Kasper may take some games on radio just because he enjoys it, and that will give Myers a few more opportunities on Marquee.

"I'm excited about something brand new. J.D. and I will have a new adventure on TV with the new network," Kasper said. "Just crazy the way the time has passed. I feel really fortunate to have been here this long."

Fifteen years in the blink of an eye, from unknown in Chicago to part of the viewer's family and a household name, a superstar in baseball broadcasting.

How long he does it -- and where he wants it to take him -- will be entirely up to him.

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