An emotional David Kaplan signed off Monday as host of "Sports Central," telling listeners he was "very disappointed" by the cancellation of the long-running program on news/talk WGN-AM (720).
Kaplan, 49, a 15-year veteran of the Tribune Co.-owned station, will continue hosting Cubs post-game shows and other sports features for WGN. But the nightly franchise he fronted has fallen victim to a ludicrously misguided‚ lineup change dictated by WGN program director Kevin "Pig Virus" Metheny. In a touching farewell at the end of Monday's broadcast, Kaplan said:
"Folks, tonight is an emotional evening for me. It is the end of an era on WGN Radio. 'Sports Central' will no longer be heard on this radio station. Please know how fortunate I feel to have been able to come into your homes and cars for the past 15 years on most weekday evenings. Talking sports in my hometown of Chicago is my No. 1 passion outside of my family. It's something I have never taken lightly since the first day I put my headphones on here at WGN Radio in the late, great Bob Collins Studio. The decision to terminate 'Sports Central' was not mine, and I'm very disappointed to see the show go. I grew up listening to this station, and I dreamed of hosting the show the late, great Jack Brickhouse once hosted. My dream came true in 1995."
As of next week, "Sports Central" will be replaced from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday by a "current events talk show" fronted by convicted felon and radio rookie Jim Laski, the former city clerk of Chicago who served 11 months in prison for accepting bribes. For reasons that remain unfathomable, Metheny hired Laski as a weekend host last June.
Kaplan's last show featured a montage of highlights, including interviews with notable guests and conversations with contentious callers.‚ Here's how Kaplan concluded his farewell remarks:
"Most of all, I will miss you, the listener. I consider all of you the reason I'm on the air. I am one of you -- a die-hard Chicago sports fan. I just happened to get a microphone. I'm at my happiest when I'm talking about the teams in my hometown. I was blessed to be able to talk with you through the ups and downs of all of our teams since I arrived at this station in March of 1995. You've showed me incredible kindness with your emails, your cards, your letters over the years. I know I can be very opinionated, and I'm sure there were moments you wanted to reach into your radio and punch me. But through it all, you always kept listening. And we always kept debating sports in the greatest city, my hometown, Chicago. Thank you for making me a part of your life and for allowing me the incredible honor to be on your radio dial. Baseball season is here, and you'll be hearing a lot of me. And while it might not be the same as it once was, we can still talk on a regular basis about the Cubs. I'm not going away, but I will miss our nightly time together. God bless all of you. I love you."
In addition to his ongoing role at WGN, Kaplan will continue to host the nightly "Chicago Tribune Live" talk show on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and write the "Around Town" column he shares with Fred Mitchell in the Chicago Tribune. He's also the writer of "Kap's Corner" on the Tribune's ChicagoNow blog site.
Kaplan, who grew up in north suburban Skokie, was a basketball coach at Northern Illinois University and a scout for both the Indiana Pacers and the Seattle Supersonics before joining sports/talk WMVP-AM (1000) in 1993. He jumped to WGN two years later.