This is Day Four of a Cubsmas Advent Calendar. You can read the explanation for the project and Day One here.
Every year as the snow begins to melt (before second or third winter, when we’ll wait for the snow to thaw again, but I digress) Cubs fans who have been desperate for baseball during a long Chicago winter are greeted with one of the greatest lines in sports: “Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air!”
Since 1996, Cubs fans following the team on the radio have been blessed with one of the greatest play-by-play callers in sports. The last few seasons, we’ve had the chance to hear that same brilliance now and again on Marquee Sports Network. In 2022 the Baseball Hall of Fame finally affirmed what we have all known for decades as Pat Hughes won the Ford C. Frick Award. He accepted the award in Cooperstown this past July, which he described in his speech as a “magical baseball village” in a way that was quintessentially Pat Hughes. Here’s his entire speech:
Long before Craig Counsell left Milwaukee to join the Cubs, Pat Hughes did the same. He spent 12 years with the Brewers before coming to the Cubs, where he teamed up with future Hall of Famer Ron Santo. The Pat and Ron Show was an unforgettable duo and truly a joy to tune into for Cubs games dozens of times a year. The above speech contains one of Hughes’ favorite anecdotes, one you’ve no doubt heard before: the day Santo’s toupée caught on fire at Shea Stadium. Let the humor of that moment warm your heart on this cold winter day.
In 2020, one month into pandemic lockdown, Pat was kind enough to join Andi Cruz Vanecek and me for an episode of Bleed Cubbie Blue’s podcast, Cuppa Cubbie Blue. It is one of the highlights of my comparatively brief content creation career. There was something comforting about hearing the voice I associate with one of my favorite things in the world during a bleak time. Pat was unbelievably gracious, unfailingly kind and shared a story about the time he sneaked into the Cubs clubhouse with his brother as a kid that I promise you don’t want to miss:
I often reflect that Cubs fans have been spoiled with some of the greatest announcers of all time on our radio and TV feeds. Previous Cubs Frick Award winners include Jack Brickhouse, who set the standard with 33 years of calling Cubs games. While I am too young to have experienced those games contemporaneously, his “Hey Hey!” is the stuff of legend, and correctly ensconced on the Cubs foul poles. I fell in love with this team partially because Harry Caray, also a Frick Award winner, sold me on the idea that there was no better place for baseball in the world than the bleachers at Wrigley Field. His statue rightly lives outside those bleachers, welcoming the bums to cheer for the Cubs. In 2023 Pat Hughes joined that illustrious company. His 27 years behind the mic for Cubs games is second only to Brickhouse.
If you’ve ever seen me keeping score at Wrigley Field with my headphones on I promise I’m not being anti-social, I just don’t want to miss a single minute of Pat Hughes’ play-by-play. I have no doubt that someday Hughes will get a well-deserved statue of his own outside or within the Friendly Confines. Until that day, I’ll treasure every game that begins with seven of my favorite words to hear: “Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air!”