The words still ring in his ears:
“Along with Hall of Famer Harry Caray and Cubs legend Ron Santo, it’s Pat Hughes at Comiskey Park.”
It was June 16, 1997 — the very first Cubs-Sox game in Year 1 of interleague play across the major leagues.
Hughes, 66, called that one and has called every Cubs-Sox game since. But there has been no topping the first time, which came in his second season on Cubs radio at the tender-ish age of 42. The most memorable part about it? His boothmates.
“You have to kind of stop sometimes and say, ‘What am I doing here? How did I get here? How did I get in the same booth with Ron Santo and Harry Caray?’ ” he recalls.
The game itself was interesting enough. It was, after all, the first crosstown matchup that counted since the 1906 World Series. But the Cubs were a bad team, having started 0-14 en route to a last-place finish. The Sox were uninspiring and would, a month and a half later, cry uncle with the infamous White Flag trade.
The Cubs won 8-3 as Kevin Foster outdueled Jaime Navarro, who allowed seven earned runs in the first three innings but still pitched into the eighth. Ryne Sandberg and Brian McRae each had three hits as a crowd of 36,213 looked on.
But the superstar of the show was, as Hughes saw it, the 83-year-old treasure seated to his left. Caray had the day off, with Sox TV partners Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Tom Paciorek handling the call on WGN, but he wasn’t one to stay home and miss a good time. On such an occasion, Hughes was delighted to have a third man in his booth. Caray — who would die eight months later — was one of his favorites.
“Harry was an old radio man from his days in St. Louis, so he always loved to join Ronnie and me,” Hughes says, “and I was thrilled to have him in our booth, no matter if they were playing the White Sox or anybody else.
“But what I remember about that day is Harry Caray having the time of his life. Every time the Cubs would score, there would be Cubs fans there cheering and Harry would laugh and bellow out in delight, ‘Listen to this crowd!’ And he just had a great time. That’s the most vivid memory I have of the Cubs-White Sox series, the thrill that I had to work with him.”