When I heard Bears Chairman George McCaskey on the radio a few weeks ago with Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer during a Cubs game I had two revelations. First, George McCaskey is a very funny man who does a spot-on impersonation of Pat Hughes. And secondly, Pat has slowly, quietly, without the flashy and boisterous approach of a Harry Caray, become an iconic Chicago voice who now belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Cubs broadcasters.
Because of his workmanlike, button-down style of reporting, his nearly quarter-century of Cubs play-by-play (now heard on The Score 670-AM) has gone mostly unheralded. Like the electricity in your house that you take for granted until there’s a power failure, you expect Hughes to be there and only miss him if he’s not.
This is the 37th consecutive year Hughes has been a Major-League Baseball announcer and amazingly his 24th season as the voice of the Cubs. Last December he signed a multiyear contract to stay with the Cubs. Before coming here Hughes was in the Milwaukee Brewers radio booth for a dozen years where his professionalism was often overshadowed by his famous and flamboyant broadcast partner Bob Uecker.
Although he’s been recognized by his peers, recently voted Ballpark Digest MLB Broadcaster of the Year, and Illinois Sportscaster of the Year, it seems we fans have only lately taken note of his unique style. There’s no “Holy Cow” “Hey Hey” or “Holy Mackerel” — that would be too flashy. Instead we get his signature, informative and descriptive home-run call, “This one’s got a chance … Gone!”
I imagine by now at playground baseball games all around the city young kids impersonate that line as a teammate homers.
Hughes broadcasts invariably begin with his “news reporter” scene-setting where he describes the players uniforms — “Cubs, in their blue shirts, red numbers, gray trousers and blue socks.”
(That’s what George McCaskey mimicked when I heard him on the radio, making me realize Hughes on the air had now become as familiar as any of his predecessors in Wrigley’s press box.)
Over the years whenever one of Hughes’ partners creates a bit of high jinks by asking a question way off-topic, his standard deflection of, “Thanks for asking” has even become part of the lexicon of Cubdom.
And lest we forget, not too many baseball broadcasters living or dead have been able to utter the words, “The Chicago Cubs win the World Series!”
Today alongside “former Cub and All-Star Ron Coomer,” Hughes is less the straight man he was for longtime and frequently hilarious and off the rails partner, the great Ron Santo, and more of a set up man, to use a baseball term, for the more traditional Coomer. Once again Hughes has adjusted his approach to match up perfectly with a former big league player.
As for Hughes’ old-school “homer” approach to bringing us the game, all I can say is most Cubs fans I know appreciate an announcer who can communicate whether the Cubs are winning or losing just by their tone. Last week I turned the game on and all I heard was Hughes saying, “Votto scoops it out of the dirt and they just get Bote.” I could tell merely by his voice that the Cubs were losing.
His precise call of every play, expert analysis of any situation with partner Coomer, an uncanny ability to recall past games, a serious approach but always with a sense of humor, make Pat Hughes broadcasts consistently the best, and it seems that after nearly 25 summers Chicago has taken notice.
Slow and steady does win the race!
• Chicago TV & Radio personality Bob Sirott is a lifelong Cubs fan.