Results tagged ‘ Len Kasper ’

Theo Epstein’s Hot Stove Cool Music guest list announced

Music and baseball will be in the same lineup again at Wrigleyville’s Metro on July 9, when Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons and Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper join an all-star lineup of musicians and personalities for the fourth annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago benefit concert. The annual event celebrates music, baseball and giving back.

Benefiting Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later (FTBNL), the fundraiser will feature ensemble performances by a special guest “headliner to be named later” (at the headliner’s request) and noted rockers from Chicago and Boston. The lineup includes Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins), John Stirratt (Wilco), Daxx Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Jennifer Hall, Matt Spiegel and Curt Morrison (Tributosaurus), Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Mysteries of Life), Jake Smith (Mysteries of Life), Gerald Dowd, Jason Narducy (Split Single, Bob Mould) and more. Epstein, Gammons and Kasper also will perform with the bands. WXRT’s Lin Brehmer, actor Joel Murray and actor/comedian Mike O’Malley will serve as the evening’s emcees.

“The foundation is grateful for the incredible generosity of the musicians, sponsors and fans who dedicate their time, effort, energy and, most importantly, their passion to help us provide opportunities for Chicago youth by supporting the organizations that work tirelessly as their advocates,” said FTBNL co-founder Theo Epstein. “We’ve collectively raised more than $6 million and look forward to increasing that total this year through another great night of music, baseball and giving back.”

Tickets go on sale on Friday, May 22, at noon CST. General admission tickets are $75, and there will be no service fees for cash purchases. Fans can buy tickets online at or in person at the Metro Box Office located at 3730 N. Clark St. VIP tickets also will be available at

In addition to the all-star music lineup, the evening will include several special guests as well as live and silent auctions featuring signed sports memorabilia and priceless entertainment experiences.

Nonprofit beneficiaries include Chicago Children’s Choir, Chicago Wapiti RFC, City Year Chicago, Family Reach Foundation, Garfield Park Little League, Girls in the Game, Jackie Robinson West, Marwen, Special Olympics and South Chicago Arts Center.

For more information on Foundation To Be Named Later programs and events, or to make a donation, please visit

Cubs and WGN-TV sign new broadcast rights agreement


(Photo by Stephen Green)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Chicago Cubs and Tribune Broadcasting’s WGN-TV today announced a new five-year agreement under which the local station will televise 45 games annually beginning with the 2015 season. This new agreement continues a broadcasting partnership that spans more than 60 years.  Specific terms of the agreement were not released.

As part of the new agreement, broadcasters Jim Deshaies and Len Kasper will become employees of the Chicago Cubs after previously being employed through WGN-TV.

“Cubs fans have grown accustomed to watching Cubs baseball on WGN since 1948, so we are pleased to continue this longstanding tradition through our new broadcast agreement,” said Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney. “We are very excited to begin a new chapter of Cubs baseball with WGN and welcome Jim Deshaies and Len Kasper, two of the best broadcasters in the business, as teammates in our organization.”

This new broadcast deal extends a partnership that dates back to 1948, and sets the Cubs’ local TV lineup for next season. Games will now be split among WGN-Ch.9, WLS-Ch.7 and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

“We’re pleased to enter into this new agreement, which continues our longstanding, historic partnership with the Cubs and we’re looking forward to some great baseball,” said Larry Wert, President of Broadcast Media for Tribune Media.  “The positive moves made by the Cubs, including the hiring of Joe Maddon, the signing of Jon Lester, and the club’s investment in Wrigleyville will be great for our city.  We believe in the Cubs and the Ricketts family, and we look forward to growing the fan base even further for both the Cubs and WGN-TV.”

From the Pages of Vine Line: Talking stats with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies


(Art by Jerry Neumann)

The following can be found in the Short Stops section of the June issue of Vine Line.

Sure, there will always be three strikes per out and three outs per half inning in baseball, but the strategies for success are constantly evolving. To keep pace, broadcasts have to change as well.

The 2003 book Moneyball, and the success of teams like the A’s and the Red Sox, have brought advanced statistics to the forefront of the game. Though most baseball insiders are well-versed in WAR, WHIP and VORP, many old-school baseball folks—White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson included—don’t subscribe to the numbers game.

That’s why Cubs broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies, both believers in sabermetrics, try to work the new stats into most broadcasts.

“We’ve found better ways to evaluate performance than the old-school batting average, RBI, runs,” Kasper said. “Counting stats can sometimes not really tell the whole tale. [Advanced stats] allow you to pull a player out of his team context and evaluate how he might be in a generic vacuum.”

As baseball moves away from traditional stats that don’t carry as much weight as they used to, it’s often up to the broadcasters to bring new ideas to the viewers’ attention—without being overbearing.

“We don’t want it to be a math class,” Kasper said. “I think always remembering the narrative of a baseball game is important, keeping the focus on what’s happening on the field. You can extrapolate some interesting notes about a player or a team without necessarily giving them raw numbers”

Though Kasper, who has been calling Cubs games since 2003, is all for the game’s evolution, he tries not to get carried away with new concepts.

“Sometimes [stats people] maybe overthink some of these situations,” Kasper said. “Sometimes guys are just good.”

From the Pages of Vine Line: The Cubs say goodbye to HoHoKam


When the Cubs defeated the Seattle Mariners 6-2 in their Cactus League home opener on February 28, 1997, it was something of an event.

Cubs ace Kevin Tapani was hurting, so Turk Wendell got the start and went two scoreless innings to earn the win. Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa both homered, and rookie Kevin Orie tallied three hits.

But the real fanfare wasn’t about the box score. It was about the Cubs’ new spring home in Mesa, Ariz., HoHoKam Stadium, built on the same site (and given the same name) as the team’s previous facility. More than 8,800 fans were on hand on an uncharacteristically gloomy Arizona afternoon to check out the gleaming new venue, designed by HOK Architects of Kansas City, Mo.—the company behind Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Cleveland’s Jacobs Field and Denver’s Coors Field. The rebuilt HoHoKam was the biggest ballpark in the Cactus League at the time, seating 12,500 fans, and the first in the area to feature a Jumbotron.

When Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to HoHoKam for Spring Training this year, it kicked off their 17th—and final—season at their longtime Cactus League home. Though the team won’t be going far—a new spring palace is set to open in the Riverview area of Mesa for the 2014 spring slate—the venerable ballpark has seen its share of Cubs history, from Mark Grace, Sandberg and Sosa to Matt Garza, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

“The ballparks in Mesa have evolved over the last 60 years along with the team,” said Michelle Streeter, director of communications with Visit Mesa. “This last season at HoHoKam Stadium is actually one of celebration because it’s not goodbye.”

Except for one year in 1966, the Cubs have trained continuously in Arizona since 1952. Spring 2013 marks the Cubs’ 35th consecutive and 49th overall spring camp in Arizona, and that stretch will only continue with the new stadium. Thanks to the city’s long relationship with Cubs baseball and the national reach of WGN television, the Mesa community has embraced the team and helped grow the organization’s fan base westward.

“HoHoKam has become a famous landmark in Mesa,” said Mark Gallo, stadium manager at HoHoKam. “Everyone hears the name HoHoKam Stadium, and the first thing they think of is the Chicago Cubs. The bond that has been built between the city of Mesa and the Cubs is very special.”

The Namesake

The original HoHoKams were an Indian tribe that flourished in central Arizona until they mysteriously disappeared around the year 1450—hence the literal translation for HoHoKam: “those who are gone” or “the old ones.”

In 1951, the HoHoKams were reborn as a civic organization dedicated to bringing Spring Training baseball to Mesa. Led by rancher Dwight W. Patterson, the 34-member committee succeeded in its task when it lured the Cubs away from Catalina Island in California, where they had trained since 1917.

At the beginning of their Arizona tenure, from 1952 to 1965, the team played at tiny, 3,000-seat Rendezvous Park, which was built in 1921 and featured a community pool beyond the left-field wall that provided a great target for right-handed hitters. After that, they had a brief dalliance with Scottsdale before moving into the original HoHoKam Park in 1979, where they stayed until 1996.

But the Cubs’ huge popularity in Arizona was actually at the root of the original park’s demise. HoHoKam Park seated only 8,900 fans. By the mid-’90s, the team, which was regularly setting Cactus League attendance records, had outgrown the facility and was looking for more space.

Suitors from other cities attempted to lure the Cubs away with the promise of a new stadium, but the city of Mesa ultimately agreed to build the team an $18 million complex for spring 1997 (the cost of the original HoHoKam, opened in 1977, was just $507,000). The deal also included a $10 million renovation of the Fitch Park practice facility just a few blocks away.

According to the terms of the lease, the Cubs were obliged to train in Mesa for 20 years, with eight one-year options that would allow the team to buy out the remaining term for $850,000 per year.

Since the new stadium opened in 1997, the Cubs have continued to lead the Cactus League in attendance. HoHoKam Stadium and the Cubs hold the Spring Training single-season attendance record of 203,105 fans, set in 2009. This mark topped the previous spring record of 193,993, also set by the Cubs at HoHoKam in 2005. The team’s 2005 spring average of 12,125 fans per game for 16 games is the all-time highest average spring attendance in major league history.

“For me, it has always been an event when you go to a game at HoHoKam Stadium,” said Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper. “The stadium is always sold out or close to capacity, and almost everyone has Cubs gear on. I really appreciate the dedication of the HoHoKams as well. They have taken a lot of pride in hosting the Cubs at the park over the years and are great hosts to us during Spring Training.”

Today the HoHoKams are responsible for running the ballpark that bears their name. The volunteer organization even includes the mayor of Mesa, who serves as an usher for the right-field bleacher section.

New Beginnings

When the final game was played at the original HoHoKam Park on March 26, 1996, the park was immediately torn down to accommodate the new structure. That won’t happen this time around. Though the Cubs are saying goodbye after 2013, the still modern-feeling ballpark will be renovated to become the new spring home of the Oakland Athletics.

The A’s will inherit a park not known for its character—when then-Cubs GM Larry Himes first conceived of the project, he envisioned a scaled-down version of Wrigley Field, but that idea was eventually rejected—but rich in Cubs tradition and scenic beauty.

“From the press box where I’m at, which is pretty much directly behind home plate, I get a panoramic view of the mountains. It’s really beautiful,” said Tim Sheridan, the public address announcer at HoHoKam since 1984 and creator of “I can look from my left to my right, going all the way across, and it’s one different mountain range after another. … I get to have that view, and the Cubs are down on the field right below me—it’s pretty amazing.”

No matter how beautiful a stadium is, it’s not the bricks and mortar that give it its worth. The real value of a ballpark is derived from the history that occurred there and the memories that are associated with it. And HoHoKam has seen its share of both, from Sosa putting the first dent in the outfield scoreboard with a mammoth homer against Oakland on March 1, 1997, to country music star Garth Brooks going 0-2 and committing an error as a Padres non-roster invitee on March 22, 1999.

“On a personal level, it means a lot, because the first game I ever called as the Cubs’ announcer was at HoHoKam in March 2005,” Kasper said. “[It was] Angels-Cubs. I remember an early Nomar Garciaparra double for some reason. And this was a meaningless exhibition game.”

PA announcer Sheridan has more than a few memories of both HoHoKam facilities. When he started in 1984, Spring Training was much different. There was no fanfare associated with Cubs games—no Jumbotrons, no music between innings, nothing but baseball and the Arizona sun. As a young man just out of college, Sheridan learned to do his job quietly, shoehorned between two Cubs broadcasting greats.

“The old [HoHoKam Park] had a wide-open press box,” said Sheridan, who was married at the newer HoHoKam in 2005. “It was basically like one long bench, and everybody was all lined up. I was right behind home plate. WGN to one side, WGN Radio to the other. Harry Caray was in one seat, and later on Ron Santo was in the other seat on the other side. So it was one of those ‘pinch me’ situations where I couldn’t believe that here I was sitting between these legends of the Chicago Cubs.”

Likely the biggest difference between HoHoKam Stadium and a major league ballpark like Wrigley Field (other than the weather) is the unrivaled access Spring Training offers fans. The stadium is smaller and things are more relaxed. Fans can get up close and personal with the Cubs before and after games, because players have a different mindset at Spring Training than they do once the regular season starts. They’re more at ease and having fun—it’s not do or die at that point. Plus, the demands on their time are fewer. It’s not uncommon to see Cubs management roaming the park or for fans to have a chance encounter with alumni like Rick Sutcliffe in the parking lot after a game.

“One of the best attributes of HoHoKam Stadium is the proximity of the fans to the field,” Streeter said. “You really feel like you’re part of the ballgame with how close fans can get to the players. If you’re sitting on the first-base line, you can overhear conversations from the dugout—you’re that close. HoHoKam Stadium is special because of the intimate feeling that catches you right upon arrival.”

In with the New

On January 25, 2010, the Mesa City Council approved a proposal to spend $84 million for a new, 15,000-seat Spring Training complex for the Cubs, thus marking the beginning of the end for the Cubs-HoHoKam partnership. From the preliminary designs, the new park will be modeled after Wrigley Field and will be built to the home park’s dimensions.

“Just as player conditioning has changed over the years, so has the fan conditioning. The new stadium is poised to offer some exciting elements not yet seen here in other stadiums that make up the Cactus League,” Streeter said. “Accommodating the Cubs fan has been just as much a part of the design and thought process with the new complex as it has been for the athlete.”

The Cubs will operate the new complex, which will be built east of HoHoKam Stadium on the site of the old Riverview Golf Course. Construction began on the project last year, and the basic structure of the new complex is already taking shape.

But Cubs fans will be leaving a lot behind when they walk away from HoHoKam Stadium at the end of March. They’ll be leaving a history that includes players from Banks to Barney, Santo to Samardzija. They’ll also be opening an exciting new chapter in their long history with the city of Mesa. Stadium manager Mark Gallo didn’t miss a beat when asked what he will miss most about the old ballyard.

“The Cubs fans—not only in February and March, but year-round,” he said. “I called them the three I’s. Cub fans from Illinois, Iowa and Indiana show up at HoHoKam at all times of the year just wanting to take pictures and walk around the stadium. Being able to open up the ballpark to the public is one of the great parts of my job. … Without a doubt, I have the best job in Mesa, thanks to Cubs fans.”

Now Playing: Len Kasper and the Cubs are on the air

For Chicago residents, it can be a long, cold winter. One of the first signs that spring is finally on the way is the crack of the bat at Cubs Spring Training camp in Mesa, Ariz.

The Cubs played the first games of their Cactus League schedule over the weekend, giving fans a glimpse of future stars like Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, in addition to regulars like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. If you can’t wait for Opening Day (and you shouldn’t), all of the Cubs 37 remaining Spring Training games will be broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet.

We sat down with broadcaster Len Kasper just before the Cubs final home opener at HoHoKam Stadium to talk about the season ahead, getting his voice into game shape and the difficulties of calling Spring Training games.

Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series:

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 3

Mesa Cubscast: Top Prospects on the Rise

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Mesa Cubscast: The Cubs Core

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 1

Mesa Cubscast: The New Guys

Mesa Cubscast: The Coaching Staff

1000 Words: It’s game time for Len Kasper


Cubs television broadcaster Len Kasper readies for the home opener at HoHoKam Stadium Sunday. Kasper will be calling the game on with Tennessee Smokies broadcaster Mick Gillespie at 2 p.m. CST. The Cubs play 38 more Cactus League games this season, and Spring Training broadcasts on are free.

Cubs announce regular season broadcast schedule


(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Chicago Cubs today announced their 2013 regular season television broadcast schedule. For the fifth season in a row, all 162 games will be available in high-definition in the Chicago area.

WGN will televise the Cubs’ Monday, April 1, season opener at the Pittsburgh Pirates at 12:35 p.m. CT, and Comcast SportsNet will have its first broadcast the next game, Wednesday, April 3, in Pittsburgh at 6:05 p.m. WCIU will televise its first game on Friday, April 19, when the Cubs play at the Milwaukee Brewers at 7:05 p.m.

Cubs games have been televised by WGN since 1948 and by WCIU since 2000. This will be Comcast SportsNet’s ninth season with the team.

Len Kasper returns for his ninth season in the Cubs’ television booth and will be joined by Jim Deshaies, who comes to the Cubs after 16 years in the  Astros television booth. Former broadcaster Bob Brenly took a TV job with the Diamondbacks this offseason.

The Cubs will also be broadcasting 36 0f 39 spring contests on either WGN Radio,, WGN Television, CSN or MLB Network. You can find the spring broadcast schedule here.

The first televised spring game, featuring Deshaies’ debut, will be Saturday, March 16, when the Cubs host Kansas City on WGN. Comcast SportsNet’s first game will be Monday, March 25, vs. San Francisco.

Cubs TV play-by-play announcer Len Kasper will again join Mick Gillispie, radio broadcaster for Chicago’s Double-A Tennessee affiliate, for most of the internet radio broadcasts

Now Playing: Broadcaster Jim Deshaies makes his Wrigley debut

Say goodbye to Len and Bob, and say hello to Len and JD. The Cubs welcomed new television analyst and former major league pitcher Jim Deshaies to the broadcast booth Wednesday morning in a press conference at Wrigley Field’s United Club. Deshaies, who recently completed his 16th season as an analyst for the Astros, said it was hard to leave Houston but that he couldn’t turn down what he considers the best broadcasting job in baseball.

“It’s going to be so much fun to be in a city where baseball matters no matter how the team is doing,’’ Deshaies said. “This place is a baseball-mad environment. The Astro guy had a hard time leaving Houston, but the baseball guy said this is the place to be.”

Cubs introduce new broadcaster Deshaies


Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and play-by-play announcer Len Kasper helped the team welcome TV analyst Jim Deshaies to the Friendly Confines Wednesday morning. Deshaies, a 12-year major league pitcher who spent seven seasons with the Houston Astros, retired from the game in 1995. Two years later, he became the TV analyst for the Astros, a position he held until signing with the Cubs earlier this week.

In the press conference Wednesday, he noted how difficult it was to leave Houston but how excited he is for his new role.

“A lot of good people down there, so it was tough to leave. You don’t leave that situation easily,” Deshaies said. “You leave it when you get the best opportunity that there is in the game for guys that do what I do. And I’ve received a lot of messages from colleagues, who work for other clubs or I’ve worked with in the past, and frankly they’re really, really jealous.”

The 52-year-old Deshaies replaces Bob Brenly, who left to become the TV analyst for the Diamondbacks after eight seasons with the Cubs. Kasper and Brenly were known to have a strong relationship in the booth and were well liked by fans. While Deshaies and Kasper haven’t previously worked together, they have spent plenty of time getting to know each other around the majors.

“I think Lenny and I are going to have a blast,” Deshaies said. “I’ve gotten to know Len over the years because of our time together in the National League. We’ve spent a lot of time in the press lounge, sharing meals, swapping stories, talking about the game.”

Having spent more than 25 years visiting Wrigley Field as a player and analyst, the former starting pitcher understands the magnitude of his new position and is excited to get the season started.

“The Astro guy had a tough time leaving Houston, but the baseball guy says this is the place to be.”

Deshaies set to join Kasper in Cubs broadcast booth

Houston Astros

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Monday night, WGN-TV and the Chicago Cubs announced that former Houston Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies has agreed to a four-year contract to join Len Kasper in the booth as the television analyst for Cubs broadcasts on WGN-TV, Comcast SportsNet and WCIU-TV.

Deshaies, who pitched 12 years in the major leagues and seven with the Astros, joins the Cubs broadcast team after serving as an analyst for Houston since 1997.

“After spending the last 16 seasons with the Houston Astros, it will be a very tough organization and fan base to leave. However, I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather move than with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field,” Deshaies said. “My family and I look forward to meeting the great, passionate fans of the Cubs and we’re excited at what lies ahead in Chicago.”

Deshaies has a good reputation in the business as a strong analyst with a good wit, similar to former announcer Bob Brenly. Although Deshaies has no direct ties to the Cubs organization, he did announce for a former division rival, which means he is very familiar with the team.

“We’re very fortunate, along with our fan base, to welcome Jim as the next television analyst of the Chicago Cubs,” said Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations. “Jim expressed an incredible appreciation for Cubs baseball, the history of Wrigley Field, the strength of our fan base, his predecessors in the broadcast booth and [wanted the] opportunity to carry the tradition forward. He is a student of the game who incorporates his firsthand knowledge, stories and humor into the broadcast, and we’re excited to see him in the booth with Len.”