Pat Hughes, Radio Voice of the Chicago Cubs, Receives Ford C. Frick Award at Hall of Fame Weekend

Pat Hughes delivering his acceptance speech after receiving the 2023 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting
(Photo by Evan Thompson/Sport Relay)

Pat Hughes Honored with Frick Award at HOF Weekend

COOPERSTOWN, NY (Jul 22) — Pat Hughes, John Lowe, and Carl Erskine were honored at the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation Saturday afternoon as part of the 2023 Hall of Fame Weekend. Hughes, the radio voice of the Chicago Cubs, earned the Ford C. Frick Award for “excellence in baseball broadcasting.” Lowe earned the BBWAA Career Excellence Award for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” Erskine was honored with the John J. “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. Given Erskine’s advanced age of 96, his son Gary accepted the award on his behalf.

Pat Hughes and His Beginnings in Broadcasting

Pat Hughes began his major league broadcasting career with the Minnesota Twins in 1983 before joining the Milwaukee Brewers radio team. He broadcast with 2003 Frick Award Winner Bob Uecker through the 1995 season. In 1996, he became the new radio voice of the Chicago Cubs and has remained there ever since. In 2016, Hughes gained the distinction of being the only Cubs broadcaster to ever call the final out of a Cubs World Series championship, since there was no radio for their other two titles in 1907 and 1908.

Hughes said there is “no way I ever could have gotten here by myself.” He thanked his family, who were in attendance, as well as his late parents. His mother, an elementary school teacher, and his father, a college professor, “stressed reading and learning and getting good grades in school,” but also “encouraged athletic competition.” He wanted to make a living in sports, and his brother John got him started in broadcasting. John was taking broadcasting classes, “dabbling in play-by-play,” and encouraged Pat to do the same.

Hughes told a story of how he got his start in broadcasting. He was “playing college basketball — or, more accurately, sitting on the bench most of the time.” One game, “out of sheer boredom,” he started doing play-by-play of his own team during the game. He stopped because he “didn’t want to be annoying,” but one of his teammates said, “Pat, you’re not that bad” and encouraged him to continue.

Building His Announcing Chops

Hughes made a “dedicated commitment” to announcing play-by-play for every game he could in football, basketball, baseball, interview shows, and sports wrap-ups. He listened to his own tapes, critiquing himself “harshly, eliminating forever” whatever he didn’t like hearing and “developing” what he liked. He listened “with a different ear” to professional announcers, trying to “gain insights and ideas.” These announcers included, among others, Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, and Bill King, whom Hughes called “the Bay Area voices of my childhood.” They also included John Facenda, “the masterful voice of NFL Films;” Vin Scully; Al Michaels; Marty Brennaman; Bob Costas; Harry Caray; Jon Miller; Bob Uecker; and Al McGuire, who also taught Hughes how to hitchhike.

Hughes thanked his production teams by name, along with his directors and ownership groups. After he had received the call from Cooperstown, Uecker was one of the first to send Hughes a congratulatory text. Hughes called him right back and said, “Bob, I am sure I learned more baseball from you than any other person.” Uecker, without missing a beat, replied, “I probably should have learned the game myself before I tried teaching it to you.”

Heading to Chicago

Pat Hughes chatting with members of the media
COOPERSTOWN, NY (Jul 22) — Pat Hughes, radio voice of the Chicago Cubs and 2023 Ford C. Frick Award Winner, chats with members of the media after his afternoon press conference. (Photo by Evan Thompson/Sport Relay)

When Hughes joined the Cubs broadcast team prior to the 1996 season, it was, in the words of Hughes, “a big transition going from small market Milwaukee to major market Chicago.” Cubs legend and Hall of Famer Ron Santo, whom Hughes called “a very important person in my life,” was his new partner. The night before their first Cactus League broadcast, Santo called him and said, “Pat, I know you’re nervous. Don’t be. You do the play-by-play; you’re going to be fine. I’ll do the color. We’re going to have fun. Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Hughes said that as Santo spoke the words, he could feel the tension leave his body, and that Cactus League game began a wonderful 15-year partnership with tremendous chemistry. He said Ron and Harry Caray both “went out of their way” to welcome him to Chicago. Earlier in the day, during the media availability, Hughes told about Caray coming over to the radio booth about three weeks into the season to say, on the air, “I just want you to know everyone loves the work you’re doing. And you just keep on going, because you’re on the right path.” Hughes said that getting validation from Harry Caray probably helped the fans embrace him, and it was something he’ll never forget and will always be grateful for.

Caray gave Hughes “good, practical advice” about the profession. He said, “Pat, when you become a baseball announcer, you don’t just sign up for the winning games and the exciting seasons. You sign up for everything.”

The Flaming Hairpiece

Hughes also shared a humorous story about Santo. This was the night Hughes found out Santo wore a hairpiece.

The Cubs were playing the New York Mets at old Shea Stadium in New York, on a cold April evening. In the visiting radio booth, right above our heads, was this old-fashioned electric heater, the kind that glowed bright orange when you turned it on. Ronnie and I stand for the national anthem. Halfway through the song, I smell something burning, and I hear sizzling, like bacon. Then I hear Santo say, “Shoot!” I turned to look at him. Ron Santo’s hairpiece is on fire. A blue flame was shooting out the top of his head. Smoke was everywhere! I didn’t panic; I kept my cool. Sort of. I took a glass of water and splashed it on his head. And then he said shoot a few more times.

Now Ron Santo’s a handsome man but also kind of vain about his appearance. His first thought was, “How does it look?” I lied and said, “It doesn’t look that bad to me.” It actually looked like a golfer, maybe Phil Mickelson, had taken a pitching wedge and whacked one right off the top of his noggin. There was a divot in the top of Santo’s head. We both thought it was very fitting that the name of the Mets’ starting pitcher that night was Al Leiter.

Pat Hughes in Closing

After thanking more people, including current broadcast partner Ron Coomer, he closed with a message to Cub fans. He said that if he was writing them a letter, it might read “what an extraordinary group of people you are.” Hughes thanked them for their “unbelievable passion for the ballclub” and for their support of him. They make him feel like he is part of their family, giving him invitations to “graduations, bar mitzvahs, and birthdays.” He said they are not only  part of the atmosphere at Wrigley Field but “part of the ballgame itself,” playing a role in a “dramatic Cubs victory” four or five times minimum per season.

“As a broadcaster,” he concluded, “I feed off your energy. Let me just say it has been my extreme privilege to be one of your announcers for these past three decades. And before my career ends, I hope I get at least one more chance to say something like (in his announcing voice) the Chicago Cubs win the World Series!”

Main Photo Credits:

COOPERSTOWN, NY (Jul 22) — Pat Hughes, the radio voice of the Chicago Cubs, delivers his acceptance speech after receiving the 2023 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. In the background are Jane Forbes Clark (left), Chairman of the Board of Directors of The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and BBWAA President Shi Davidi. (Photo by Evan Thompson/Sport Relay)

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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