Chuck Swirsky leaves Raptors for Chicago

Chuck Swirsky, the Raptors' play-by-play announcer for the last 10 seasons, is leaving the organization for personal reasons related to his family, the team said in a release Tuesday.

He's never thrown down a dunk, diagramed a play or orchestrated a trade, but an important piece of the Toronto Raptors has been lost.

Chuck Swirsky, the Raptors' play-by-play announcer for the last 10 seasons, is leaving the organization for personal reasons related to his family, the team said in a release Tuesday.

Swirsky is returning to the Chicago area, where he served as sports director at WGN Radio from 1982 to '94, to take a job as the Chicago Bulls' radio play-by-play announcer.

He announced the move on his afternoon show on Toronto all-sports radio station The Fan 590.

"There's lots of good play-by-play guys out there, but only one Chuck Swirsky," Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Raptors, said in a statement. "He is a big loss to our organization. His passion for basketball and passion for our fans makes him one of the game's great ambassadors."

A fan favourite for his colourful catch phrases ("Break out the salami and cheese," he'd exclaim when the Raptors sewed up a victory), Swirsky has served as the play-by-play man for Raptors television broadcasts for the last seven years, including seven games this season on CBC-TV. He worked radio broadcasts for the team for three seasons prior to joining the TV side.

Swirsky, who was born in Virginia and grew up in Washington State, signed a four-year contract extension in 2007 and gained Canadian citizenship this past winter.

He called what turned out to be his last game for the Raptors on April 28 in Orlando, where Toronto fell 102-92 to the Magic in the fifth and final game of their first-round playoff series.

Prior to coming to Toronto, Swirsky spent 10 years as a basketball broadcaster for Chicago's DePaul University. He was also a host on the Chicago Bears radio network for 10 years, and worked as a host on the Chicago Cubs radio network for 12 seasons.

He also spent time as the sports director at WJR Radio in Detroit.

With files from the Canadian Press