Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes wins Ford C. Frick Award from Baseball Hall of Fame
Hughes, who has called Cubs games since 1986, was a finalist in 2016 and 2020. He joins Jack Brickhouse (1983) and Harry Caray (1989) as Cubs announcers to win the award.
The third time was indeed the charm for Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes, who won the 2023 Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday as a three-time finalist.
Hughes, who also was a finalist in 2016 and 2020, will be inducted the weekend of July 21-24 in Cooperstown, New York. He joins Jack Brickhouse (1983) and Harry Caray (1989) as Cubs announcers to win the award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting.
“This is one of those things you just hope it happens in your lifetime,” Hughes, 67, said. “Naturally, you’d like to get in as soon as possible, but it’s nothing that you’re ashamed of because just to be a finalist is a great accomplishment.
“You don’t think about the Hall of Fame because it’s something so big that you think, there’s a strong likelihood you’re never going to get in, so why spend a lot of time thinking about it. You just work, and sometimes good things happen.”
A lot of good things have happened to Hughes, who has called Cubs games since 1996. He was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2021 and the Cubs Hall of Fame this year. Hughes also has been named the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year nine times.
He has called baseball for 40 seasons, beginning with the Twins in 1983 before moving to the Brewers in 1984. He also was the play-by-play voice for Marquette basketball from 1988 to 2004.
When he joined the Cubs, Hughes worked with Caray, but he made a lasting impression on fans working with Cubs Hall of Famer Ron Santo on what became “The Pat and Ron Show.” The duo entertained listeners beyond the call of the game, and Hughes still shares stories about Santo on broadcasts.
“It was a natural evolution,” Hughes said. “You have a lot of time when you and your partner are on the air live. If it’s a good ballgame, you focus on the action. But if it’s 11-2 in the seventh inning … as my old basketball announcer [partner] Al McGuire used to say, ‘Pat, it’s time to go to Plan B.’ And Plan B would be telling stories, telling jokes, teasing each other, whatever it might be.”
Hughes is a technician as an announcer. He introduces himself at the start of each broadcast with, “This is Pat Hughes reporting,” making a distinction between calling a game and reporting from a scene. When asked what he strives for in a broadcast, Hughes noted specific aims.
“I try not to kill a broadcast with too many stats,” he said. “[Late Tigers Hall of Famer] Ernie Harwell told me one time, when you use a statistic, try to tell a story with it.
“Make sure to get [analyst] Ron Coomer involved. He always has done scouting reports on the opposing pitcher. So I always say, ‘Ron, what’s the plan for the Cubs’ hitters?’ I believe in description of every single play. I want you to be able to see exactly where he was when he made the play.
“There’s also the element of fun, sometimes silly fun: play on words, stories about a play that just happened that reminds you of a play that happened 10 years ago, or a Ron Santo story that sparks a laugh.”
And he swears all the hi-jinks are spontaneous.
“People think that we rehearse these lines and stories. No,” Hughes said. “The terrifying part of broadcasting is that you have no idea what you’re going to say. I find it equal parts terrifying and exhilarating because you’re ad-libbing the whole thing. If you can have fun under those circumstances, the audience likes it, and they appreciate that.
The ballot consisted of broadcasters whose main contributions were as local and national voices. The other nine finalists were Dave Campbell, Joe Castiglione, Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Tom Hamilton, Jerry Howarth, Ernie Johnson Sr., Duane Kuiper and Steve Stone.