Jon “Boog” Sciambi didn’t take long to crack his first joke.
In the top of the first inning of his first regular-season broadcast as the Cubs’ TV voice, Boog listed the offensive categories in which the Pirates ranked last or close to it in 2020.
“That’s not very good, Boog,” analyst Jim Deshaies said matter-of-factly.
Deadpanned Boog: “More from JD coming up in the third.”
Picture Harry Doyle talking to Monte in the movie “Major League.”
That quick wit and dry sense of humor will have Marquee Sports Network viewers chuckling all season. But there’s much more to Boog’s broadcasts than comedy, and he displayed it all Thursday from the Wrigley Field booth.
After the game, I asked Boog how he felt, despite the Cubs’ 5-3 loss.
“I’m freezing!” he said. “It was cold.”
Be that as it may — the temperature was in the 30s — Boog said he felt good.
“It was cool. It was baseball,” he said. “It certainly would be more fun and more memorable if they won. When the home team plays well, you get to call big plays and the crowd gets into it. It just wasn’t to be.”
His preparation was evident by the personal and statistical nuggets he shared about the Cubs and Pirates. He said Pirates pitcher Steven Brault hid in pitching coach Oscar Marin’s office to surprise teammate and close friend Chad Kuhl when Kuhl learned he made the team. He said Cubs left fielder Joc Pederson is a sneakerhead and has his daughter Poppy’s name on the heels of his cleats.
Boog also can talk baseball with the best of them, from analytics to fundamentals to player habits. Remember, he has been calling major-league baseball since 1997, and he has developed relationships with countless players. He talked about how, on cold days, keeping players’ throwing hand warm isn’t the problem. It’s the glove hand because the glove can become stiff.
He also had some great exchanges with Deshaies.
“JD is such a pro and so good to work with and listens so well,” Boog said. “Our crew’s really good. Those guys are following me on different things. We supported in spots with graphics and video; we didn’t overdo it.”
Boog’s sense of humor, self-deprecation and pop-culture references will be big hits with viewers.
When he struggled to pronounce Pirates starter Kuhl’s name in a sentence, he turned into Albert Brooks in the 1987 movie “Broadcast News,” saying, “A lot of alliteration from anxious anchors placed in powerful posts!”
When he asked to see the pitch count appear and then disappear in the score bug, he said, “It’s kinda like the Clapper, only with the score bug and the pitch count.”
When Deshaies asked jokingly whether Boog wanted fries before remembering he doesn’t eat them, Boog motioned to the burly coat he was wearing and said, “We’re covering fat. Now I’m just sorta fat.”
When Boog told the story about the April Fool’s Day 1985 article in Sports Illustrated about fictional pitcher Sidd Finch, who was going to turn the Mets into a dynasty with a 168 mph fastball, he broke out a thick, hilarious New York accent to share what he heard from Mets fans growing up.
And there’s more to come Saturday.
“I know the fans were excited to be back at the ballpark, but I spent my entire year last year calling games remotely,” Boog said. “So for me, to look at the field and be there and call the game and have my partner right next to me, I had a blast.”