Jon 'Boog' Sciambi, Leila Rahimi make news in Chicago media (2024)

Dollars and sense is a column about Chicago sports business and media

It didn’t take long for Marquee Sports Network to get inundated with candidates to replace Len Kasper. It only took a month for the station to make a hire.

The announcement of Jon “Boog” Sciambi as the Cubs’ new TV play-by-play broadcaster on Monday was welcomed with excitement and a sense of relief by fans. Sciambi is, in short, the perfect hire to replace Kasper, who became the familiar voice of Cubs baseball for the last 16 seasons. In a shocking move in early December, Kasper left his Cubs job to take over as the radio play-by-play broadcaster of the White Sox.


The Cubs almost immediately started interviewing potential replacements and it didn’t take long to find their hire.

“In the end, we found the guy we had kind of targeted all along,” Marquee senior vice-president of programming and production Mike Santini said in a Zoom call with Mike McCarthy, Crane Kenney and Sciambi on Monday.

Sciambi was an early, popular name for the job, but there were questions, naturally, about whether or not he would leave his national role at ESPN to go back to a local role. While Sciambi will still do some ESPN games here and there, particularly in the postseason, he said on Monday he’s committed to the Cubs for the lion’s share of a 162-game schedule.

Why did he want this job? Sciambi’s answer was organic but sounded as if it were scripted by the Cubs’ marketing team.

“I want to be where baseball matters,” he said. “And baseball matters on the North Side of Chicago.”

Jon 'Boog' Sciambi, Leila Rahimi make news in Chicago media (1)
Sure, it seems like real estate and tax savings matter more these days at Clark and Addison, but slap Sciambi’s answer on a social media graphic anyway. It’s the post-Theo version of “Baseball is better.”

“Look, I think that this job is special,” Sciambi said. “That’s really what it comes down to. It’s not as simple as hey, now you’re back to doing an everyday job. No, I’m going to back to do the Cubs.”

When Kasper left, this became one of the sought-after jobs in sports media and Sciambi checks all of the boxes, as the hiring cliche goes.

There is a relationship between local fans and their broadcasters that called into question Marquee management’s interest in national names. As erstwhile “Cub o’ coffee” columnist Andy Dolan wrote in his Substack newsletter last month: “Fans hate national broadcasts, all they ever do is bitch about them. You should be going for the opposite of a national broadcast feel.”

Sciambi, thankfully, is not Chris Myers. He’s a national voice who has the ease and charm of a local one. He knows Wrigley Field and understands the Cubs, despite not being from here. He mixes humor and baseball nerdery and a proven skill set at calling games.

“I don’t take it lightly, the position I’m being put in,” he said. “Because I know how much this team, this job means to the fans and to you guys. I’m thrilled to get this opportunity.”

Sciambi and Kasper have been friends since they were calling Marlins games, and in a lot of ways, this move should feel seamless. Sciambi and Jim Deshaies will make for an entertaining team, even if the on-field product could be mediocre or worse.

“I’m going to want to make it smart, interesting and fun,” Sciambi said. “Len and I have similar sensibilities. Len is a friend of mine of 20-some years and we strive for similar things. … I’m fired up I get a chance to work with JD. We speak the same language and I think overall, you’re talking about two guys who will have a lot of fun.”

Sciambi is also a former ESPN partner of Cubs manager David Ross, which should help in the information-gathering part of this job.

Given the circ*mstances, Marquee Sports Network didn’t have an easy debut season and fans rightfully had things to nitpick. But this is a positive step and perhaps it’s the only major addition Cubs fans will see this offseason and in the near future. When your big free-agent acquisition is a broadcaster, that’s not good. But at least they got a good one.

In the first week of August, just as baseball season was getting underway, Leila Rahimi unexpectedly lost her job hosting the White Sox pre and postgame shows as NBC Sports Chicago eliminated shows and jobs.

Sports media gigs are precarious these days, but Rahimi was still shocked. And before she could spread the word, the story was out there.


“I would’ve liked to tell my friends,” she said of the news breaking in the Chicago Tribune. “I barely got off the phone with my mom.”

But before she knew it, she was meeting with Mitch Rosen, the operations director at 670 The Score, and his boss Rachel Williamson, the Entercom regional president.

A week later, she was guest-hosting on the “Mully and Haugh” show. A month after that, she started appearing every Wednesday on Dan Bernstein’s morning show, a move that coincided with Dan McNeil’s firing from the afternoon show for his Maria Taylor tweet. The timing might have been coincidental, but it was noted.

Rahimi then became one of the rotating group of hosts with Danny Parkins for his Mac-less afternoon show, but she was really building continuity with Bernstein. “Leila Wednesdays,” as Bernstein would say, became a thing.

Jon 'Boog' Sciambi, Leila Rahimi make news in Chicago media (2)

If Leila Rahimi could host with Ozzie Guillen and Frank Thomas, Dan Bernstein shouldn’t be a problem. (Darren Georgia / White Sox)

And now she’s full-fledged partners with Bernstein, who has been a popular host at the station since joining up with Terry Boers in 1999. Rahimi will be Bernstein’s third co-host since Boers retired in January 2017.

Boers’ replacement Jason Goff was pushed out by former station boss Jimmy deCastro in 2018 and Bernstein lost Goff’s replacement Connor McKnight in the station’s pandemic cutbacks in April. Bernstein has been hosting solo since, and he’s very good at it, but he figured he’d get a permanent co-host.

“Mitch has always preferred shows with more than one person generally,” Bernstein said. “He likes hearing two voices. When we started doing it regularly, I was aware this was a possibility. As it became a probability, it was exciting.”

Her “monthly visitor” spots on Laurence Holmes’ show introduced her to Score listeners, but the Dallas native has been a sports radio fan forever.

“I started calling into the Cowboys postgame show when I was 14,” she said.


Rahimi started interning at KLIF-AM after graduating high school and then worked at KTCK-AM, aka “The Ticket,” a major Dallas sports radio station. The North Texas grad left sports radio for TV and worked all over Texas in news and sports, lugging a 35-pound camera to cover high-school football games before she got on air.

After working in San Diego, for a failed Comcast SportsNet station in Houston and the big CSN station in Philadelphia, she was hired in Chicago in the fall of 2015.

Twenty years, give or take, since she got her start interning in Dallas, she’s back on sports radio. The next step? Well, figuring out how to actually co-host five days a week.

“I have thousands of TV shows under my belt,” she said. “I have tens of radio shows. My first job is to figure out how to do the show every day. I’m coming from place of learning. When it comes to radio, I’m all ears. I’ll try to get feedback to get better. The biggest thing is learning how to do radio. Hosting for one day is one thing, hosting five days a week is another.”

Bernstein is the kind of guy who says this job is easy, and in some sense, it is just talking about sports. But that belies the difficulty of doing it well five days a week.

He’s not too worried about Rahimi’s adjustments. As he said, half-joking, while he’s busy studying anagram clues for crossword puzzles, “she’s diagramming plays and tracking exit velocities.”

“She’s immensely well-prepared,” he said. “She’s a voluminous note taker and she is a consumer of so much sports media that it comes through how deeply prepared she is. You can hear her go effortlessly from talking about outside zone rushing schemes to the intricacies of pick-and-roll defense in the NBA. It’s real because she’s done the job in so many places and done so many jobs. She’s worked NBA sidelines and MLB dugouts and been on the sidelines interviewing ornery college football coaches. She’s very experienced, very thorough and she’s able to be herself.”


And of course, being the first full-time female daytime host at The Score — there have been update anchors, reporters and nights and weekend hosts like Julie Swieca; Julie DiCaro was hosting nights and weekends when she got laid off in April — makes Rahimi a bit of a reluctant trail blazer.

“Yeah, I mean it’s sad in a way because I don’t enjoy hearing about setbacks for women in our field,” she said. “The facts are sad, but the event is great.”

Rahimi thought she was the only woman doing pre and postgame hosting for a big-market (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) baseball team. Now she’s in an even more male-dominated job.

“The responsibility is heavy when you think about it, in the scope of what I’m doing it at The Score,” she said.

Rosen mostly dodged questions about the historic nature of this hire, focusing on Rahimi’s organic fit with the show and at the station. He said that all the feedback and ratings data suggested that Rahimi’s Wednesday appearances were popular with the Score listeners.

“I look at it as she’s a brilliant sports personality who fits into what we do,” he said. “What she brings to us is a smart sports personality and I couldn’t be more excited.”

Rahimi’s hiring was met with rave reviews on Twitter, and not just from her peers in the media world.

“It has really been heartening to hear and see the response,” Bernstein said. “We have this image of a Scorehead and we poke fun at the old stereotype of Bob in Elmwood Park. It’s fascinating how our listeners can’t be pigeonholed anymore. It used to be easy and probably true to come up with the picture of the sports radio listener. After 30 years, it’s far beyond that.”

Bernstein came up in the age of bad behavior on sports radio and in recent years, he had to apologize for things he tweeted or said. It’s fair to say Bernstein has mellowed out a bit. With a daughter in college and a son in high school, he’s thoughtful about how his profession has changed in the last 20 years.


“I was talking about this with Terry, if you pick any show, any four- to-five-hour show from 1999 to whenever, it’s a scandal,” he said. “One show. Everybody would be fired. In talking to Leila, she was working at The Ticket at 10 and it sounded like more of the wild west than what we were doing. Thinking about what was OK then, it’s not OK now. That’s a challenge to remain irreverent and unpredictable and funny as the rules keep changing. I think we’re up for it.”

Rahimi would love to host with Bernstein in studio to really build their chemistry, but COVID-19 restrictions mean she’s mostly working out of her small apartment. It’s a little jarring, she said, to wake up and see a Score background banner in her bedroom, but it’s a small price to pay.

With Rahimi settled in middays, who will be Parkins’ co-host for the afternoon show? All signs point to his old partner Matt Spiegel. Nothing has been decided yet, as Parkins and Entercom are still working on a new contract, but it’s not a stretch to speculate this is coming soon. Parkins and Spiegel have solid chemistry that makes their reunion an easy decision, at least in my opinion. Their previous show was broken up by deCastro in 2018, but Spiegel stayed at the station, filling in on shows and hosting on the weekend. … In an “only in Chicago” moment, Sciambi was asked about pizza preferences in the first question of his Zoom press conference Monday. Deep dish or tavern style? Lou Malnati’s or Pizzeria Uno? The answer: None of the above. “I’m the recovering really fat guy that’s sort of a fat guy now who gave up flour and sugar,” said Sciambi, who got his nickname for a supposed resemblance to former Baltimore Oriole slugger Boog Powell. “I’ve got nothing for you.” … Mike Greenberg’s new radio show has moved from afternoons to midday in ESPN’s national schedule, but that won’t change his 12-2 p.m. slot on ESPN 1000 because it was already being aired on delay.

(Photo of Leila Rahimi and Dan Bernstein: Courtesy 670 The Score)

Jon 'Boog' Sciambi, Leila Rahimi make news in Chicago media (2024)


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