CHICAGO -- It is the call that Cubs fans mention the most when meeting Len Kasper. The team's television play-by-play man understands why, too. It was a moment of pure reaction, a moment when excitement simply overpowered any kind of rehearsed commentary.
"Fans want you to be yourself, right?" Kasper said. "That moment was just who I am. It came out."
The call, of course, was Kasper's raucous response to Aramis Ramirez's walk-off home run against the Brewers on June 29, 2007.
"The pitch to Aramis ...”
Three games earlier, the Cubs had blown a five-run lead in the ninth against the Rockies -- only to win a wild one via a walk-off single by Alfonso Soriano. On June 29, the National League-leading Brewers carried a 5-3 lead into the ninth, while holding a 7 1/2-game lead over Chicago in the standings.
In the final frame, Milwaukee handed the ball to closer Francisco Cordero, who had a 2.16 ERA and no home runs allowed through 132 batters faced up to that point in the season. The Cubs had won their previous six games to bring their record up to 38-39. No matter how you sliced it, this was a critical game for the direction of Chicago's summer.
With one out, Soriano led off with a single and Mike Fontenot followed suit. That set things up for Derrek Lee, who drove a pitch from Cordero to deep right field for a sacrifice fly that trimmed the Brewers' lead to one run.
Ramirez moved into the batter's box with one aboard, two outs and the Cubs down by one.
"You're kind of trying to set up the moment," Kasper said, "because it was dramatic and it was kind of a big, fingernail-biting moment."
Ramirez settled into his stance, waving his bat in quick circles above his right shoulder, as Cordero unleashed a first-pitch slider.
"All of a sudden, it was over," Kasper said. "I remember that at-bat and it just felt like it was going to be a really good battle, and he hung a slider on the first pitch and that was it."
"There's a drive! Deep left-center!"
Kasper said there were three factors that helped elevate his reaction to his favorite call to date. First, the suddenness of the first pitch forced him to react without hesitation. Next, the blast off Ramirez's bat was a no-doubter. No time-buying qualifiers were necessary as the baseball took flight. Everyone at Wrigley Field knew the baseball was destined for the bleachers.
And then, there was the energized Chicago audience, roaring with delight and allowing Kasper to let the noise and bedlam consume the call.
"I could kind of open the throttle immediately, knowing the game was over," Kasper said. "And the crowd was amazing."
"Cubs win! They win it!”
Kasper's voice cracked slightly at the declaration of victory.
"Ramirez! Two-run shot! Oh, baby! Can you believe it?"
At this point, Kasper went quiet, letting the Wrigley Field fanatics do the yelling, cheering and celebrating. Ramirez did a few stutter steps out of the box, hopping a bit like Sammy Sosa did so often for the Cubs in the 1990s. Around first base, Ramirez hoisted his right arm skyward and let out a howl.
When Ramirez rounded third base and closed in on the mob of teammates waiting at home plate, he thrust both arms in the air and high-stepped into the sea of jabs and back-slaps. Kasper took to the mic again for a one-word summation of the moment taking shape on the field.
The 6-5 win was the seventh in a row for the Cubs, who used that streak to fuel a 53-38 finish to the 2007 season. Chicago first took sole possession of the top spot in the NL Central on Aug. 17, did so for good on Sept. 12 and eventually captured the division crown by two games over the Brewers.
"That kind of turned everything around that year," Kasper said of Ramirez's shot.
Kasper does not have one signature home run call. He said his style is to try to make each moment unique. While there are turns of phrase or methods of description he may lean on more than others, that approach provides some leeway for genuine reaction to big moments.
Kasper said that his call of Ramirez's game-winning home run is not the best from a mechanical broadcasting standpoint. But in a city where broadcasters have become beloved for letting their inner fan out -- Harry Caray and Ron Santo spring to mind -- Kasper knows the call resonated.
"It's the call that people mention as kind of the call they love the most," Kasper said, "because it was a little unlike me, and I guess I'm proud of that, that I was caught up in a moment. Sometimes, it's OK to be a fan."
It's a call that will live on for Cubs fans and Kasper alike.
"It's almost like a song, in a way," Kasper said. "Whatever stamp you put on a big moment -- whether it's great, awful, just OK, kind of good, could've been better, whatever it is -- it's there forever and you cannot go back and fix it."