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 broadcast greats.
Hughes, 67, won the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Broadcasting Excellence honor in 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. announcement to break the news.
“It’s one of the greatest days of my life,” Hughes said on a conference call. “When I was fortunate enough to be inducted into the Cubs Hall of Fame in September, I thought, ‘Who wouldn’t want to be in the Cubs Hall of Fame?’ I feel the same way today. Who wouldn’t want to be in Cooperstown recognized for their broadcasting career? I’m excited, to say the least.”
Hughes thanked his managing partner Ron Coomer, along with Cubs president Tom Ricketts, Crane Kenney president of business operations Zach Zaidman and WSCR-AM 670 program director Mitch Rosen, among others.
“The Ford C. Frick Award is an extremely 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. “Beyond his impressive resume, Pat is a truly wonderful person who cares deeply about Cubs fans and the game of baseball. We are incredibly fortunate 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 voice of Minnesota Twins TV in 1983 and moved to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1984. He began his career with Cubs in 1996. and recently completed his 27th season on the North Side. Hughes he was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in September.
Hughes, the 47th winner of the Frick Award, was voted on by a panel that included former winners Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Bob Uecker, his former Milwaukee partner. Others on the ballot included White Sox TV analyst Steve Stone, in his first year as a finalist.
While many felt Hughes was a shoo-in for the 2020 Frick Prize, he said he was never that upset about losing and never gave up hope.
“Just to be a finalist for such a high award is a great achievement,” he said. “You don’t feel any shame or bitterness. You just think, “Well, maybe next time.” That’s how I tried to think about it and I just kept working hard. I’m really just a pretty happy guy doing my day job.
“You don’t think about the Hall of Fame … because it’s such a big thing, you think, ‘You know what? There’s a good chance you’ll never 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. Winning the 2016 Cubs World Series was the highlight 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 don’t win, you still have a job to do and you get paid very well to do your job. You owe it to your audience, yourself and your family. So I don’t have a major problem (if they don’t win). I want the team to win. Don’t get me wrong. But win or lose, I’m 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 weird, but I feel like baseball is a form of escapism. It is to me, always has been to this day. It’s really a pretty healthy form of escapism for a lot of us just to get away from your troubles.”
Hughes was the last in Cooperstown for his former partner Posthumous induction of Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Santo was one of his most memorable partners on WGN-AM 720 and made the infamous “Oh, no!” call when Cubs infielder Brant Brown dropped a ball in Milwaukee to lose a crucial game in the 1998 wild-card race.
Hughes said that their relationship was a “natural evolution” and that their friendship came through loud and clear during the shows, with Hughes frequently teasing Santo for laughs in the middle of the action.
Same with Coomer, his current partner. When a game gets boring, the two often go off on a humorous tangent, like one day in June when the presence of Atlanta Braves pitcher Ian Anderson led to a conversation about Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.”
“That Ian Anderson, he could play the flute badly,” Hughes told his audience.
Not everything in baseball was life and death, and Hughes keeps listeners entertained while keeping them informed.
“I feel like it’s my job to pass on Ron Coomer’s knowledge every day,” he said. “That’s one of the aspects of doing play-by-play. And then there’s the element of fun – sometimes silly fun. A play on words or stories about a play that just happened that reminds you of a play that happened 10 years ago at Yankee Stadium or a story about Ron Santo that evokes a laugh or a moment that will make you chuckle. I believe in fun. I love going to the stadium and that has been the case for me since I was 7 years old.”
Brickhouse was named the Frick Award winner in 1983, while Caray followed in 1989. Hughes follows in their footsteps and joins many of his friends and mentors in the industry, including Uecker.
“It’s almost hard to put into words, and I’m talking with words,” he said. “I live by being able to express myself and put things into words. This is challenging because it goes way beyond what you could realistically expect in a career when you’re starting out.”
Hughes, who has two years left on his contract, has no plans to leave the Cubs’ bullpen anytime soon.
“I don’t know when I’m going to retire,” he said. “It might not even be my decision. I just know that I’m happy now. I try to take care of myself. It’s a great situation… I’m 67 years old. I won’t last forever. But as long as I feel I am reasonably effective and relevant as a broadcaster, I will continue. If I start making too many mistakes, I’ll know and then I’ll have to retire.”
Hughes will receive the award during Hall of Fame induction weekend July 21-24 in Cooperstown, NY