Pat Hughes, the Chicago Cubs’ longtime radio voice, wins the Ford C. Frick Award — the Baseball Hall of Fame’s top broadcasting honor


Longtime Chicago Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes was named the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award on Wednesday, joining Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray among the all-time broadcasting greats.

Hughes, 67, earned the honor for broadcasting excellence by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on his third year on the ballot after being named a finalist in 2016 and 2020.

Baseball Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch called Hughes shortly before Wednesday morning’s announcement to reveal the news.

“It’s one of the great days of my life,” Hughes said on a conference call. “When I was lucky enough to be inducted into the Cubs Hall of Fame in September, I made a point of saying ‘Who wouldn’t want to be in the Cubs Hall of Fame?’ And I feel that same way today. Who would not want to be in Cooperstown recognized for their broadcasting career? I’m elated, to say the least.

“It’s a great place to be and now to think that my own plaque is going to be there, it’s just ridiculous. I can’t even believe it.”

Hughes thanked his main partner, Ron Coomer, along with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, president of business operations Crane Kenney, Zach Zaidman and WSCR-AM 670 program director Mitch Rosen, among others.

“The Ford C. Frick Award is a highly prestigious award that recognizes the ‘best of the best’ in broadcasting and no one is more deserving of this award than Pat,” Ricketts said in a statement. “Outside of his impressive resume, Pat is a truly wonderful person who cares deeply about Cubs fans and the game of baseball. We’re so incredibly lucky to have had him as a member of the Cubs family for the past 27 seasons and look forward to celebrating this accomplishment, and many more, in the years to come.”

Hughes began his baseball broadcasting career with the minor-league San Jose Mission in 1978, and after five seasons in the minors became the Minnesota Twins TV voice in 1983 and moved to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1984. He began his career with the Cubs in 1996 and recently completed his 27th season on the North Side. Hughes was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in September.

Hughes, the 47th winner of the Frick Award, was voted in by a committee that included former winners Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Bob Uecker, his former partner in Milwaukee. Among the others on the ballot was White Sox TV analyst Steve Stone, in his first year as a finalist.

While many felt Hughes was a shoo-in for the Frick Award in 2020, he said he was never that upset about losing out and never gave up hope.

“Just to be a finalist for an award this lofty is a great accomplishment,” he said. “You don’t feel any shame or any bitterness. You just think, ‘Well, maybe next time.’ That’s the way I tried to think about it and kept working hard. I’m really just a pretty happy guy doing my job day in and day out.

“You don’t think about the Hall of Fame … because it’s something so big, you think ‘You know what? There is a strong likelihood you’re never going to get into those things, so why spend a lot of time thinking about it.’ You just work hard, and sometimes good things happen.”

Hughes’ voice has served as the soundtrack to Cubs baseball for generations of fans. The Cubs winning the 2016 World Series was the culmination of his career, but broadcasting the Cubs for so many years means having to describe some bad teams.

“I love the game,” he said. “Even when they do not win, you still have a job to do, and you’re being paid very well-to-do that job. You owe that to your audience and to yourself and to your family. So I don’t have a major problem (if they’re not winning). I want the team to win. Don’t me wrong. But win or lose, I’m still going to approach it pretty much the same way day after day after day.

“You’re constantly communicating with the listener and I think that’s part of the charm. I also tell people, and it sounds a little corny, but I feel like baseball is a form of escapism. It is for me, it always has been to this day. It’s really a rather wholesome form of escapism for a lot of us just to get away from your troubles.”

Since retiring as a player, manager David Ross has gone back to listen to Hughes’ calls of his biggest moments from his two memorable seasons in a Cubs uniform.

“That’s how I identify those moments, that’s the voice I hear now rather than of the thoughts that I used to have in the box,” Ross said Wednesday. “I hear his voice and his call and his excitement. He’s been here for so long and seen so many ups and downs. That’s the longevity of all that, going through the good and the bad. That’s why he’s just such a special person. His attitude daily is unique.”

Hughes was last in Cooperstown in 2012 for former partner Ron Santo’s posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame. Santo was one of his more memorable partners on WGN-AM 720 and made the infamous “Oh, no!” call when Cubs outfielder Brant Brown dropped a fly ball in Milwaukee to lose a crucial game in the wild-card race of 1998.

Hughes said their rapport was a “natural evolution,” and their friendship came across loud and clear during broadcasts, with Hughes frequently teasing Santo for a laugh in the middle of action.

Ditto with Coomer, his current partner. When a game gets dull, the two often go off on a humorous tangent, like a day in June when the presence of Atlanta Braves pitcher Ian Anderson led to a conversation on Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.”

“That Ian Anderson, he could play a mean flute,” Hughes told his audience.

Not everything in baseball is life and death, and Hughes entertains listeners while also keeping them informed.

“I feel like my job is to get Ron Coomer’s knowledge on the air every day,” he said. “That’s one of the aspects involved in doing play-by-play. And there’s also the element of fun — sometimes silly fun. A play on words or stories about a play that just happened that remind you of a play that happened 10 years ago at Yankee Stadium or a Ron Santo story that evokes a laugh or a moment that will make you giggle. I believe in having fun. I love going to the ballpark, and that has been the case for me since I was 7 years old.”

Brickhouse was named winner of the Frick Award in 1983, while Caray followed in 1989. Hughes follows in their big footsteps and joins many of his friends and mentors in the industry, including Uecker.

“It’s almost hard to put into words, and I speak with words,” he said. “I live by being able to express myself and put things into words. This is a challenge because it’s so much beyond what you could ever realistically expect in a career when you start out.”

Hughes, who has two more years left on his contract, has no intention of leaving the Cubs booth anytime soon.

“I don’t know when I’m going to retire,” he said. “It may not even be my decision. I just know that I’m happy right now. I try to take care of myself. It’s a great situation…. I’m 67. I won’t last forever. But as long as I feel like I’m reasonably effective and relevant as a broadcaster, I’ll keep on going. If I start making too many mistakes, I’ll know, and then I’ll have to step away.”

Hughes will receive the award on Hall of Fame induction weekend July 21-24 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Tribune reporter Meghan Montemurro contributed from San Diego.



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