Not two minutes after stepping in front of the microphone, where hell replace Bob Brenly next season as the Cubs television color commentator, Jim Deshaies started to tell a story.
It was about the last start of his major-league pitching career, which took place at Wrigley Field in July of 1995. The summer was particularly hot, and he remembered being able to see the heat radiating off the towers at the Hyatt on Wacker, where his team, the Phillies, were staying. He knew his playing days were numbered I was on life support pretty close to flat-lining and with the wind blowing out and the temperature something like 105 degrees, the fly-ball pitcher was worried.
My career is going to end today, Deshaies thought. I knew it.
The room laughed. Deshaies joked that at least he acted as a good scout in predicting his own downfall. More laughs.
The Cubs officially introduced Deshaies on Wednesday as their new TV analyst with a press conference at Wrigley Field during which Deshaies featured the quick wit and honesty that prompted the Cubs to pull him away from the Houston Astros, where he left a 16-year partnership with play-by-play man Bill Brown that had been regarded as one of the best in baseball.
To a certain extent, I feel like Im breaking up the band there, said Deshaies, a former left-handed pitcher who went 84-95 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 seasons, seven with Houston.
But he was drawn to a city where baseball is relevant regardless of the year the team is having. The Astro guy had a hard time leaving Houston, but the baseball guy says this is the place to be.
Deshaies said Houstons upcoming move to the American League didnt affect his decision to leave. But the Astros havent had a winning season since 2008 and lost 106 games last year, five more than the Cubs.
Deshaies, 52, signed a four-year contract that will pair him with Len Kasper for Cubs games broadcast on WGN, Comcast SportsNet and WCIU. Other reported candidates were former Cubs Eric Karros, Dan Plesac and Rick Sutcliffe, but for a second straight time, the Cubs hired someone with no connection to the organization.
Deshaies quickly showed he gets the significance of the booth hell step into, which has been filled by Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray.
Im not going to pronounce any names backward, he joked.
Kaspers former partner, Brenly, left the Cubs after eight seasons for the same job in Arizona, where he won the 2001 World Series as the Diamondbacks manager.
Kasper and Brenly had also developed into a popular pair, but Deshaies personality seems to complement the usually straight-laced Kasper. While talking about his new partner, Kasper said that Deshaies humor will come in handy. Kasper didnt say this, but that might be most true next season as the Cubs continue to re-shape a team that lost 101 games in 2012.
You have to tell the truth and you have to have fun, said Deshaies, who wore a black blazer over a white shirt and a purple polka dot tie.
More of his self-assessment:
-- He said he points out players mistakes but is reluctant to bury guys because he thinks baseball is a difficult game and there is always context for any situation, which he learned when he once criticized an opposing player for not running hard to first base only to be told by one of the teams broadcasters that the player had a hamstring injury.
-- He prefers saying I dont know instead of bluffing and being wrong.
-- Hes a believer in sabermetrics, the statistics-based computer analysis that has swept over the game in recent years, but he understands that not all listeners want to hear about them all the time.
-- He likes to feel out players individually to get a sense of what theyre willing to share, and he makes it a point to be available to players before games in case they want to talk about a certain play he commented on.
Deshaies family wife Lori and daughters Libby, Molly and Kelly will move to Chicago after Kelly, the youngest, graduates high school next year. Libby is a second-year law student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and Molly is a teacher.