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Boog Sciambi fits the mold of historic Cubs TV voices

3 years agoBruce Levine

Catch Boog Sciambi on the call Friday at 9:30 p.m. as Marquee Sports Network airs a Cubs Classics game from 2018.

When it comes to reaching the mark as a great Cubs TV broadcaster, an ability to relate to fans while also boasting a Chicago sensibility is key. Jon “Boog” Sciambi fits that mold perfectly, like many of the great broadcasters before him over the past 74 seasons.

{PODCAST: Get to know Boog Sciambi}

Things have come a long way since the days when Jack Brickhouse and his broadcast partner Joe Wilson split a $70 salary as the first telecast of Cubs baseball appeared on WBKB (Channel 7) in April 1947. Nonetheless, the job for Sciambi remains similar to what Brickhouse and Wilson were charged with at the beginning of Chicago baseball TV broadcasting so many years ago.

From the first Brickhouse broadcast until 2021, the job is to be an expert in the field while also being good at communicating with the audience and partner. This credo must ring true regardless of a 2-1 nailbiter or a 12-0 blowout. Information and entertainment is an objective and having fun is the goal.

“I wanna be where baseball matters and baseball matters on the North Side of Chicago” Sciambi said after being hired to replace Len Kasper as the voice of Cubs TV on Marquee Sports Network. “I think this job is special and that’s what it boils down to.”

Brickhouse did more baseball broadcasts than any other announcer through the first Cub era of TV games (1947-1981). He understood the reality that the game may not always hold the interest of all viewers without some redirection from the interlocutor doing the broadcast.

Brickhouse entertained a whole generation of baby boomers and instructed them on the rudiments of the game during lulls in the action. With a longtime collaborator like Jack Rosenberg writing ad-libs as the game was being played, the team’s daytime schedule made loyal viewers of housewives and their children who rushed home from school to catch the last few innings.

During the time Brickhouse was the Cubs announcer, the team compiled only seven seasons above .500, creating a juggling act of baseball broadcasting and telling stories about the players when winning could not be expected.

When Brickhouse retired in 1981, the plan was to hand off his duties to another Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton. The rug was pulled out from under Hamilton when WGN TV executive Jim Dowdle hired Harry Caray away from the crosstown White Sox. He made Caray the star of the station and Hamilton a spear-carrier. Caray did six innings on TV and three in the radio booth each game. A disgruntled Hamilton — who left the Cubs after 1984 — did six innings on radio and three on TV each game.

Caray — who handled White Sox games from 1972-1981 — had established himself as a historic radio voice of St. Louis Cardinals baseball for 25 years prior to arriving in the Windy City. He became a rock star with the Cubs on the superstation broadcasts around the world with color commentator Steve Stone at his side. The fun-loving Caray made watching the broadcast an event rather than just another ballgame.

Brickhouse Caray Stone 1920x1080

Caray consistently focused on the fans, which included complimenting women’s attire at Wrigley Field. His lively commentary in tandem with legendary director Arne Harris and his cameramen, Caray became synonymous with having a good time (“I’m a Cub fan and a Bud man”) at the ballpark and continuing the day into late-night adventures in his favorite Rush street bars.

“He told me when I first began to broadcast that I needed to be well prepared when games got out of hand,” Marquee contributor and former Cubs Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe said about the Hall of Fame announcer. “Harry worked hard at his broadcasts. He told me too many former players try to do broadcasting without doing their homework. Harry had a very professional view of the job.”

After Caray passed away in 1998, his grandson Chip partnered with Stone until both departed after the 2004 season. Then entered the talented Len Kasper, who combined his broadcast skills and pleasant personality with a metrics infusion for the first time in Cubs TV history. Along with color analysts Bob Brenly and later Jim Deshaies, Kasper helped guide fans through some terrific seasons in 2007-2008 and a full rebuild during the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era that led to the first World Series appearance in 71 years and first championship in 108 campaigns.

Kasper’s preparation with analytics was a first in the Cubs booth while a pop culture aspect of the broadcasts was part of the daily banter between him and Deshaies.

Enter the Sciambi-Deshaies era. Great days appear ahead for Marquee viewers who love their Cubs. In Sciambi, who I have known and enjoyed for 20 years, you will find a fun-loving guy who will work his tail off to provide you with top information and a self-deprecating perspective of himself and of the baseball and sports world we all love to watch.

“He is one of the few play-by-play men who could do color commentary,” Sutcliffe said about his former ESPN TV partner. “That is how smart and versatile Boog’s range is as a broadcaster. He will be able to keep your attention and have fun even in a 17-4 game.”

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