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The big day has arrived for current Cub and Hall of Famer Pat Hughes
Cooperstown has finally confirmed what we already knew
Today, while the team he announces continues a high stakes series to stay out of fourth place, the Cubs’ iconic radio announcer is getting his long awaited just due in Cooperstown.
Pat Hughes, the 27 year voice of the Cubs on radio will receive the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and with it, the right to be referred to as Hall of Famer.
Pat is proud, and—as an honorary Midwesterner—a little embarrassed by the honor and all of the attention. But those of us who’ve listened to him for nearly three decades know he deserves every bit of this.
I grew up on a farm where every radio, in the house, in the barn, in the tractor, in the truck and the car were perpetually tuned to WGN Radio. And why not? It was one stop shopping. My dad could cuss out the grain prices reported by Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong on The Noon Show and then it would roll right into Vince Lloyd telling us “The Chicago Cubs are on the air.” And then there’d be even more cussing as the Cubs lost more than half of their games, usually something like 10-5.
More than any other, the voices of the Cubs announcers were the backing soundtrack to our summers. Some of them were great, like Vince and Lou Boudreau, and of course the incredible three inning cameos by Harry Caray, and some of them were…just kind of there like Milo Hamilton and Thom Brenneman. There was the perpetually underrated Dewayne Staats (still going strong on Rays TV), and some truly awful analysts like Dave Nelson1 and Jim Frey.
And then, in 1996 a new guy took over as the voice of the Cubs, reporting from “beautiful and historic Wrigley Field.” And he’s been going strong ever since.
Pat Hughes was the perfect partner for the overly excitable Ron Santo, and he was able to turn Santo’s complete inability to analyze baseball into something truly entertaining and downright charming.
As technically deficient as Santo was, Pat is the opposite. Vin Scully famously said that the job of a radio sports announcer is pretty simple. Tell the audience where the ball is. If the audience knows where the ball is they can follow the action.
And nobody does that better than Pat. And along the way he’s gotten to call some incredible feats.
Like Brant Brown almost catching a fly ball once!
Miguel Montero’s grand slam in game one of the NLCS
The Cubs first pennant since 1945 (here’s the entire inning, but it’s queued up to Yasiel Puig’s at bat)
And then, you may have heard once or twice, he called the Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years (similarly, here’s the entire final half inning, queued up to the final out)
And, in my opinion, his greatest ever call. It’s a masterpiece of scene setting and his most iconic one-off lines, “If you feel like you can’t sit still you are not alone. I wish all of you could be right here at this moment.”
Until the pennant winner a year later that was the biggest win of our Cubs’ fans lives. The win sent them to the NLCS, a place they’d been before, but slapping the Cardinals around in three straight games (and hitting BOMBS repeatedly) was just the greatest thing, ever. And Pat’s call captured the moment perfectly.2
Pat has some quirks, and we’ve adopted them as our own. Nobody does a better job of describing the uniforms of both teams before games, right down to the color of the “trousers” of the opponents, than Pat. Hell, the Cubs eventually went out and got a sponsor just to try to ruin the whole thing. Yet, it endures.
His home run calls are great, especially when one of the Cubs (rarely) really get into one and Pat tells us to “get out the tape measure, long gone.”
His grand slam call is terrific, too. Just rewatch the Montero video a few thousand more times to really soak it in.
Cubs fans argue about whether the the Joe Buck call of the final out of the World Series was better than Pat’s. It was. But Pat had the handicap of actually having to describe the play, and of having to shoehorn a State Farm read into the aftermath of it.
Still, both are worth savoring, especially the kicker to each.
“The Cubs…have finally won it all.”
“The longest drought in the history of American sports is over, and the celebration begins.”
You can’t go wrong with either.
But the best thing about Pat is how easily he wears. We’ve been listening to him for nearly 30 years now, game in and game out, and nobody is tired of Pat Hughes. Unlike some other local announcers (cough, cough, Jeff Joniak, cough, cough), you are never worried that Pat’s going to let you down. You know that you will instantly know what’s going on, and because he’s so good you’ll “see” it as it happens.
And then, when things inevitably get dull (it’s baseball…and these are the Cubs, after all), few are better at benign patter.
Jon Greenberg expertly covered that in his column about Pat (and the Rons) on The Athletic.
Pat’s not announcing games, he’s “reporting.” Which is technically more accurate, and very much on brand for him.
He’s 68 and still going strong. He takes the fifth inning of each game off to rest his voice3 and to give us fans a chance to turn the dial and avoid having to listen to Zach Zaidman butcher six outs of baseball.
Mike Donohue and I do the same thing if we’re listening to the Cubs on radio. When the fifth inning rolls around it’s time to use the MLB app to sample the other team’s announcers. Unless it’s the Cardinals, in which case I just throw my phone out of the car window and go buy a new one.
Pat has worked with some of the most colorful characters in sports. Bob Uecker in Milwaukee, Santo and Harry Caray with the Cubs, and he even did Marquette basketball with the great Al McGuire. He likes to joke that Harry was “the most normal of all of them.” And Pat was the perfect foil for each. He knows how to give the essential call and get out of the way and let the bigger personality cook, while also being able to slide a few one liners of his own into things.
He currently works with former Cub and All-Star Ron Coomer, who you may also know as a restauranteur whose motto is “Of course fries come with that, and on that, and under it.” And this Ron is probably the most perfect partner he’s ever had. They are just enough alike in temperament and style, but just different enough to keep things interesting.
Pat loves to set Coomer up with, “What pitch would you be looking for here as a hitter, Ron?” And what I want is for Coomer to pick one full season and just say, “Fastball down the middle,” every time.
Pat is constantly pining for the Cubs to homer in any big situation, much like Harry used to give us the, “Oh for the long ball,” line. I think Pat’s out loud wishes serve two purposes. One, to make the game more competitive and interesting if they score a few runs, but also because he knows if he says, “The Cubs could use a homer right here,” and then the unlikely outcome occurs, those will get paired together in the postgame and make him seem like a sage.
The forecast for today’s outdoor induction ceremony is 75 degrees in Cooperstown. Just about the top end limit where Pat could still wear his opening day sweater!
I think I speak for most (if not all) Cubs fans, and Ron Santo when I say, “Congratulations, Big Boy, and thank you for being the voice of our summers for a very long time.”
Not all Hall of Fame inductions are deserved (cough, cough, Harold Baines, cough, cough), but this one most certainly is.
If you think Joe Carter was bad….and boy, was he…Nelson was somehow worse.
An underrated great call in that series on TV was after Schwarber parked his homer on the video board and former Cub Dennis Eckersley, just said, “What in the world?”
Come on, we know he’s just taking a shit.