The Cubs’ long-time radio announcer, Pat Hughes, on life in the booth, the Cubs’ appeal and the allure of Wrigley
By George Vlahos
Photo courtesy of Steve Green
Pat Hughes was born Virgil Patrick Hughes on May 27, 1955 in Tucson, Ariz., and has served as the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Cubs on WGN radio since 1996. A graduate of San Jose University, Hughes earned the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year award in 1996, 1999, 2006 and 2007 and was also named the Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year from 1990-1992.
Hughes is best known for his call of Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run in 1998, which broke the single-season home run record. Loyal WGN listeners are no doubt familiar with Hughes’ famous on-air phrases like “This ball’s got a chaaaaance…GONE!”
In a recent interview, Hughes talked about life in the booth, the Cubs’ national popularity and the appeal of the “Friendly Confines.”
A: Traveling in baseball is the most misunderstood aspect of what we do. Now, for instance, tonight we are in St. Louis, and after the ballgame is over, we have to make an 11:30 p.m. flight to San Diego. The flight lasts about five hours, and then the time zone changes by two hours, so jet lag is another issue that we, as broadcasters, must face. I have a wife and two daughters, so over the course of my 15-year career with the Cubs, I feel as though I’ve missed a lot, but it’s well worth it. The constant travel is very difficult, however.
Q: What makes the Cubs so loved across the country?
A: Well, the fact that the Cubs play in such a huge market is definitely a reason as to why they are so loved. The ballpark they play in, Wrigley Field, is definitely another reason why. WGN is broadcast nationally, so it is a tremendous factor in the Cubs’ surge in popularity throughout the decades. Another reason that gets overlooked is that Midwesterners simply love their baseball, and the Cubs are one of the teams that Midwesterners outside of Illinois support.
Q: How privileged do you feel to be the play-by-play radio voice of the Cubs?
A: Very much so. I don’t take it lightly. I try to remain clear-minded. I consider my position with the Cubs as a very prestigious one and an honor as well. I try to prepare for each broadcast the same way, and I also attempt to bring a little humor into the broadcast as well.
Q: If a tourist were to ask you to direct them to the best restaurant in Chicago, what would you suggest?
A: That’s ironic, you see, because I don’t eat out that much when I am at home. When I am on the road, I eat out constantly, so when I come home, I love to eat a home-cooked meal. My wife Trish is a tremendous cook. Harry Caray’s is definitely one of my favorite places to eat when I do eat out. I spend so much time on the road that I try to eat in when I am there.
Q: How do you try to lighten the situation when the product on the field is struggling?
A: That’s your job. Present the ballgame. I tend to think that I am old-fashioned. The play-by-play is and extension of the team, the front office and the public relations department. You sign up for every game and call it as you see it. That’s the best way to present the play-by-play when things on the field are lagging.
Q: What makes Wrigley Field such a destination for Cubs fans, non-Cubs fans, tourists, and baseball enthusiasts in general?
A: Well, the neighborhood is a factor, the near north side. There is a certain energy that exists around Wrigley that is unmatched at any other park in baseball. The ivy, the smallness and intimacy of the ballpark, the close proximity to the field, the enthusiasm of the fans — it’s almost impossible not to have fun.
Q: What makes Chicago such a great town?
A: Well, it’s a great sports town. There is a diversity of people. They love to have a good time. When it’s baseball season, the mood changes and the city is even more fun. It’s simply a great town to visit. Chicago accumulates all of the great characteristics of a city and perfects them.