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updated: 6/22/2019 7:16 AM

O'Donnell: Will Cubs' Kasper and Deshaies be together next season?

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  • Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies have teamed on Cubs broadcasts for seven seasons.

    Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies have teamed on Cubs broadcasts for seven seasons.
    Courtesy of NBCUniversal

 

THE MOST EARTHSHAKING CHANGE ever in the Cubs TV booth began as a whisper.

With the Cubs' dicey Marquee Network set to launch next winter, the same kind of whistling wind is now beginning to gain resonance regarding the future of Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies as the team's TV play-by-play tandem.

Are they marquee enough?

History: It was the summer of 1981.

MLB players were in the midst of a 49-day strike.

The Tribune Company's ownership of the Wigglies was less than two months old.

A tip reached The Daily Herald that Harry Caray was pursuing clandestine talks with the ballclub, a potential betrothal allegedly being brokered by a major Chicago businessman.

The Daily Herald's bearded insouciant made all of the requisite phone calls.

Caray -- then in the midst of his 12th season with the White Sox but first with Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn -- was deflective, saying, "Aw, what are you talking about? I've got a job."

Jack Brickhouse, in his fourth decade of play-by-play with the Cubs, was only slightly more direct: "Well, that's a good one. Harry and I together would be some act, wouldn't it?"

So, the story went to press as informed speculation that the Cubs could be pairing Caray and Brickhouse beginning with the 1982 season.

Walter Jacobson -- the former Cubs bat boy then in the middle of his great run at WBBM-Channel 2 News -- said, "That could wind up being bigger than 'The Brothers Karamazov.'"

The great Gary Deeb jumped on it and eventually made it clear that something was in the air.

Finally, four months later, Tribco president & CEO Jim Dowdle made the precise announcement as diplomatically as possible:

Caray was in. Brickhouse was out but to remain in some sort of honored role with WGN Sports.

One week after that, with their own dicey SportsVision in launch stage, Reinsdorf and Einhorn countered with a slammer:

Don Drysdale and Hawk Harrelson were on board to bring fresh and instant "big league" to the Sox TV booth.

As if Caray and Jimmy Piersall didn't.

Back to now, Kasper and Deshaies are in their seventh season as a combo with the Cubs. (Kasper has been with the team since 2005.)

A fair summary of their work would be "competent."

They are entertaining in much the same way Tim Kaine was entertaining as Hillary Clinton's running mate three years ago and Maury Povich is entertaining as a talk-show host.

The duo caught a wave and sat on top of the MLB world when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.

In the wake of that miracle, both were signed to three-year contract extensions, through the end of the current campaign.

At the time, Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations, said, "We think Len and J.D. are the best team in baseball."

This week, they clearly weren't even the best team in Chicago baseball.

Politely, during the two-game set between North and South, Jason Benetti and Steve Stone pantsed Kasper and Deshaies.

Benetti was tremendous. Kasper was fine.

Stone was very good, although he needs to ditch the Tony Romo-style predict-a-play static. (He's wrong too often for a fellow at his level; Benetti covers for him very well.)

Deshaies -- who is capable of a chatter-chatter bing-bang drollness -- was "there," like Kaine and Povich.

So with the Cubs on the threshold of a chancy new broadcast era, a window when all sizzle possible is going to be needed to push new delivery and mold new mindsets, the big Q. hangs:

Are Kasper and Deshaies "Marquee" enough?

Because cozy ain't ca-ching.

STREET-BEATIN': Interesting rumble that the NFL is considering a future "Saturday Night Football" package from late September to mid-November that would sport kickoffs at 9 p.m. Central, with all games hosted by teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. How vulnerable would NBC's "Saturday Night Live" be, especially during its seasonal startup month of October? … Speaking of "SNL," great archaeological find by Don Weiland, long an intellectual stalwart on the Bulls stats crew: "The Tao of Bill Murray: Real Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment and Party Crashing" (Random House, 2016). (Any fellow who can merchandise classic Irish-Catholic melancholia into global fame, free golf and carefree fortune is worthy of deep, deep study.) … Dick Vitale has extended with ESPN through the 2021-22 basketball season. That will push the amazing Pride of Passaic (N.J.) to age 83. … Also from the seasoned citizen file, word that Phil Regan, 82, has been bumped to pitching coach of the Mets brought back recall of the WGN Channel 9 afternoon when plate umpire Chris Pelekoudas negated three pitches -- including a strike three on Pete Rose -- because of "an odd break of the pitch." "The Vulture" was rumored to buy Vaseline by the vat. … Bob Sirott and Lester Munson left 'em laughing at the farewell luncheon for Mike Leiderman. … Intriguing opening over/under of 2 goals as Alex Morgan and the American women move into the knockout stage of the World Cup vs. Spain on Monday (FS1, 11 a.m.). … And as if R.J. Barrett didn't suffer enough after being picked No. 3 by the Knicks in the 2019 NBA Draft, ESPN's Chauncey Billups piled on when he said the Duke star reminded him of the Bulls-era Jalen Rose. That's the same Rose who Scottie Pippen referred to as "riffraff" during his time in Chicago.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.