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Mark Giangreco update: Chicago sports media’s top 10 stories of 2021

The saga of Giangreco’s ouster from ABC 7 is No. 1. But he’ll make at least one more appearance on Chicago TV for a New Year’s Eve countdown show.

“Janet [Davies] mentioned it to NBC 5 VP of news Frank Whittaker about six months ago, and he jumped on it,” Mark Giangreco said of the New Year’s Eve show’s conception. “Seeing it as a great chance to take a shot at [ABC] 7.”
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mark Giangreco has been off Chicago TV since his last sportscast Jan. 28 on ABC 7. But he’ll reappear Friday night where he did his first Chicago sportscast, NBC 5.

He and longtime New Year’s Eve partner Janet Davies will help ring in the new year with “Chicago Today” hosts Cortney Hall and Matthew Rodrigues on “A Very Chicago New Year.” Giangreco and Davies co-hosted their own countdown show on ABC 7 for 20 years before the station let both go this year.

“Janet mentioned it to NBC 5 VP of news Frank Whittaker about six months ago, and he jumped on it,” Giangreco said of the show’s conception. “Seeing it as a great chance to take a shot at [ABC] 7.”

Would you expect anything else from Giangreco?

Mark Giangreco (right) returns to Chicago TV on Friday night with longtime New Year’s Eve partner Janet Davies (left). They’ll join Cortney Hall and Matthew Rodrigues for “A Very Chicago New Year” at 11:08 p.m. on NBC 5.
NBC 5

Of course, such flippant comments got Giangreco in trouble a few times during his career in Chicago, which began in 1982. But his last alleged transgression led to his ouster at ABC 7, capping a 27-year run as the station’s — and the city’s — lead sports anchor.

It also ranked first among our top 10 Chicago sports-media stories of 2021.

At the end of that fateful, final sportscast, Giangreco jokingly referred to news anchor Cheryl Burton as someone who could “play the ditzy, combative interior decorator” as part of a fictional DIY Network show. The remark didn’t sit well with Burton. She complained to the bosses, and they took Giangreco off the air.

Viewers didn’t know what had happened to Giangreco until five weeks later, when the story finally leaked. On March 12, ABC 7 and Giangreco — who had 18 months left on his contract — reached a separation agreement. It marked a sad and undeserved ending for one of the best sports personalities Chicago has ever had.

Giangreco has made the most of his time since then, spending it largely with family and friends. But on New Year’s Eve, he’d be happy to spend it with you, too.

2. Pat Foley begins last year with Blackhawks

You can’t tell me that Foley couldn’t call Hawks games for another five to 10 years. So when the Hawks announced in June that the 2021-22 season would be his last, I was stunned – and saddened. He’s my favorite announcer of all-time and the best this city has ever heard. The Hawks are auditioning potential replacements, and while their process is understandable, it also is robbing fans of chances to hear Foley in his final season. The candidates are great, but there’s only one Foley.

3. Len Kasper makes White Sox debut

Hearing a different voice calling Hawks games is one thing. Hearing the voice of the Cubs for 16 years calling White Sox games is another. Man, that was weird. Kasper is living out his childhood dream as a baseball radio announcer. When Yoan Moncada and Yermin Mercedes hit back-to-back homers in the Sox’ home opener, Kasper sounded as though he had been on the South Side forever. That’s because he’s a pro, and Sox fans are lucky to have him.

4. Jon Sciambi becomes Cubs’ TV voice

I can’t take credit for the Cubs and Marquee Sports Network hiring “Boog,” but 10 days before the Jan. 4 announcement, I wrote, “I want Jon Sciambi calling Cubs games.” And voila! It wasn’t the easiest debut season given all the challenges created by the pandemic. But Sciambi fared well, and he’ll be even better. In many ways, he’s an extension of Kasper with an even better sense of humor and a self-deprecating demeanor.

5. Leila Rahimi named Score co-host, NBC 5 anchor

Is there another woman in a local market who has a weekday sports-radio show and is a TV sports anchor? “My agent asked me the same thing, and we were trying to figure that out,” Rahimi said in November. “I wish I knew the answer. It’s unfortunate if I am the only one.” That’s the truth, but Rahimi is representing well.

6. Broadcasters battle to travel for games

In July, Sox TV voice Jason Benetti appeared on The Score and fumed about not being allowed to travel after staying home in 2020. “It’s ridiculous,” Benetti told the “Parkins & Spiegel Show.” “We, in order to do the job properly, need to be around the team.” The NBC Sports Chicago crew finally traveled in September as the Sox closed in on a division title.

7. Beth Mowins becomes first woman to call Cubs

Mowins made history May 8, calling a 3-2 victory against the Pirates at Wrigley Field, her first regular-season MLB game. She has been the voice of the Women’s College World Series for more than 20 years. “From a play-by-play standpoint, the language is the same, most of the strategy is the same,” Mowins said in February. “I grew up on TWIB Notes and ‘This Week in Baseball.’ ” That’s all I needed to hear.

8. Adam Amin calls Bears, Bulls, Cubs and Sox

Amin is the Bulls’ regular TV voice, but his job with Fox Sports gives him other opportunities. On July 10, he called a Cubs home game. On July 17, he called a Sox home game. And though he’s also the Bears’ preseason TV voice, he hadn’t called a Bears regular-season game until Oct. 31. That’s called doing “The Brick,” in honor of Jack Brickhouse, who was the voice of all four teams in 1967.

9. Eddie Olczyk becomes TNT’s lead analyst

When the NHL moved its games to ESPN and TNT, it was obvious that Olczyk would wind up at one or the other. The lead analyst for the Hawks and NBC – and the best hockey analyst on the air – chose TNT, where he joined Kenny Albert to form the network’s top pair. TNT has been a breath of fresh air for a sport whose TV coverage had become stale.

10. Hawk Harrelson finally inducted into Hall of Fame

Harrelson was supposed to be enshrined in Cooperstown in 2020, but the pandemic nixed those plans. As the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, given to broadcasters, Harrelson finally delivered his acceptance speech in July. It sounded like many of his broadcasts, filled with opinions and stories and told in a way only Hawk could.