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Making the Call
By Jim McFarlin | Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Cubs | August 16, 2016
Pat Hughes’ beautiful baritone has been the soundtrack of summer for just over two decades. Could this be the year he announces a world championship?
“Pat Hughes,” a Chicago Cubs blogger once rhapsodized, “has a voice that is so beautiful, he could talk for three hours about aluminum siding and I’d be captivated the whole time.”
For most of his 21 play-by-play seasons in the catbird seat atop Wrigley Field, the mellifluous Hughes needed all the captivation he could muster. “When you’re with a losing team, it’s the middle of summer, you’ve done 90 games and still have 72 to go, it’s not all laughing and good times,” concedes Hughes, the Bay Area native who is the sound of summer for millions of Cubs faithful.
“You have to love baseball to do this, because it’s relentless,” he says. “It’s a great job and I’m well compensated; I’m not complaining. But people think it’s an easy gig, and it’s not. I try to have fun, be prepared and get ready for that first pitch.”
Fun has been easier to find in this particular Cubs season, as the North Side Nine burst from the gate with the best record in baseball. Hughes, 61, survived recent changes in ownership, front-office management—even local radio dial positions, from WGN to WBBM last year—to describe the team’s game-by-game resurgence firsthand.
The late Ron Santo, fanatical half of the Pat and Ron Show for 14 years as Hughes’ on-air partner, proclaimed every season: “THIS… IS… THE… YEAR!” This season, barring a Bartman, the Mets or a late-season collapse, Santo’s vow finally may come true.
Hughes, who claims 34 consecutive seasons as a big-league broadcaster—12 alongside baseball’s clown prince, Bob Uecker, in Milwaukee—is excited by the possibility of a Cub conquest, but not for the reason you might expect.
“I’m more than ready to cover a league champion and a World Series for the first time,” says Hughes, a student of the game’s greatest announcers. “So, personally, it’s extremely exciting for me.”
His legendary play-by-play predecessors, Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse, “were alive when I got here and treated me great,” Hughes reflects. “They would have loved to see this team.”