Love Letters From Pronk: Pat Hughes
On 12/14/2019, I had the opportunity to meet Pat Hughes at an autograph signing.
As I wasn't sure how much i'd get to talk to him, I wrote him a letter. It goes...
Dear Mr. Hughes, It was a pleasure being able to meet you today. It's always something special to meet one of your heroes, and I wanted to share what your announcing has meant to me over the years. Rather than awkwardly dominate your time at the signing, I figured it'd be best to put it into writing.
I became a Cubs fan in June of 1998. I went to my first game early in the month and had a wonderful time, even though the Cubs lost. The ambiance, tradition, Wrigley was a magical place. Then Sammy Sosa went off and I was hooked. It was a great season between the home run record race and the Cubs clinching the wild card in dramatic fashion, and I loved every minute of it.
My only problem was my mother, who was anti-television. We had a scratchy 16 inch tiny tube with awful reception, less than ideal for watching my new found addiction. Because of this, I discovered Cubs radio, with yourself and Ron Santo. I'd listen to every game I could. I'd be outside doing yard work and have you both on a portable radio. For night games, I'd fall asleep listening, trying to stay awake to hear the whole game.
Because of this, I've gravitated towards Cubs radio, even in my adult years of HD TV and video streaming. I'll have the radio going during my 9-5 in the office, and my co-workers have grown to appreciate you too. Len and JD do a great job, but sometimes I'll turn the radio up over their broadcast if I haven't gotten to hear you for a week because I miss it.
I grew to appreciate your calling style very quickly as a kid. There is an old school/traditional approach to your broadcasts, where your descriptions put a listener right in the middle of the action. Obviously I wasn't alive in the baseball glory days of the '20s-'50s, but listening to your broadcasts made me feel as if I was. Even in the off years, it was still enjoyable to listen, because of your great broadcasting. The Cubs could get blown out, and I'd still have a good time. You and Ron Santo had such wonderful charisma together. Your banter gave each broadcast added depth and enjoyment. The color and flair was never over the top, but like listening to a couple of well respected family members talk Cubs. You made the game accessible to kids, and helped me understand it over the years.
I got the chance to meet Ron Santo when I was a kid at a card show, and he was so friendly that it has always stuck with me. While I miss him terribly, I've loved watching your on air relationship with Ron Coomer develop the last few years. I hope there are many more years to come.
I love your sense of humor as well. There's typically a couple good laughs per broadcast. You are very witty, and the jokes you make at your own expense are usually the funniest ones. It makes every broadcast a joy to listen to, even if the Cubs aren't doing so hot.
I was bummed to find out that you missed out on the hall of fame this year. Someday you'll join Santo there, I have no doubt. I'm currently developing my baseball writing skills for a fan blog with a couple of friends (cubsdna.com). Someday if I ever get into the BBWAA, I'll find a way to write you in for my HOF vote! You are totally deserving. At the very least, you are in my Cubs hall of fame.
I wanted to conclude with an offering: if you are every out near my hometown of Aurora, my wife and I would love to take you and Trish out for a meal, a beer, or coffee. Whatever you'd like! Just know that the offer is there. Feel free to reach out to me at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-555-1908.
Sincerely, James Tracy
Steve was able to join me for the adventure. We road tripped together, talking baseball and life. We got to the restaurant where the signing was taking place a third of the way into the scheduled times. The line was short. We got our tickets, and went in.
The guy ahead of us had this magnificent painting. We listened in and turns out he had it ordered in the Cooperstown area. Pat's ink pen ran out halfway through the inscription (his 2016 WS winning call), so I grabbed a picture of said picture. It's as long as a couch.
We get to the front. I'm super nervous. Pat and I introduce and shake hands. I explain the letter and give it to him. He asks if he can read it now, and I say, "oh you don't have to" but then he did anyways, out loud. I couldn't believe it was happening.
He paused in the 1998 section and said he had a trivia question for me. He asked me which pitcher Sammy hit his first home run of the month off of. I stumbled a bit, and then he clued me by saying he was a Cubs RP and SP, and currently in the front office. I was too nervous to remember the name, "RYAN DEMPSTER" but I also didn't think that he made his debut until the 2000s. Thankfully Steven was watching me screw up and jumped in with the answer.
Pat continued through the letter. he paused again at the part where I talked about him missing out on the HOF. He admitted he was disappointed, but then went on to say that he had no major complaints, that he's lived a long successful life. not that it had all been easy, but that the struggles were some of the moments that shaped him for the better. It was a great, humble attitude, and made me respect him all the more.
He then finished up, and we took pictures. Steven then got his baseball signed. There wasn't a line behind us, so we talked with him a few more minutes. Turns out Pat works out frequently at a local gym, and his favorite exercise is shooting baskets and running back and forth on the court. He was also a college basketball player and loves watching college basketball. I wouldn't have guessed that!
Afterwords, Steven and I grabbed lunch and I got this huge grilled cheese sandwich. I couldn't eat the whole things. Fitting end to a great day.
Pat Hughes was just as friendly in person as he sounds on the radio. He mentioned 3 or 4 times throughout the letter how much he appreciated it. I'm not sure he'll take me up on my offer for dinner, but hey I can dream. It was awesome being able to explain to somehow you've looked up to for decades how much their work has meant to you. I've now met both halves of my childhood radio team, and it felt GREAT!
Special thanks to:
-Warehouse Eatery in Deerfield IL. Fantastic food, layout and atmosphere.
-Autograph1 Thank you Steve for chatting with me and for putting the event together.
-Pat Hughes, for being accessible to baseball nerds like me