The Cubs limped into the All-Star break on Sunday night, with a dispiriting loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite it all, WGN radio announcer Pat Hughes finds reason to appreciate the first half of a Cubs season known for its under-performance -- and reason for hope in the second half.
Hughes also explains to NBCChicago why we're laughing more in Cubs games, even when we lose.
NBC: Halfway through. What's been the bright spot this season?
PH: Starting pitching has kept us in most games. Carlos Marmol has been magnificent. The young guys: Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin have been magnificent. And the fact that we have lost so many close games. You're thinking -- one little hit here, one little defensive play, one umpire call, one line drive that falls. It's a matter of hoping to get the breaks, whatever that might be. You hope that in the course of 162 games, the luck will even out.
NBC: That's a lot of evening out!
PH: It is. I didn't say its real promising. We are 9.5 games back as we speak. If you're within 10 at the all-star game, baseball history tells you still have a chance. It's a strange game, very unpredictable. And the Cubs are certainly still in it at this point.
NBC: As a game historian, what have we seen this year that will live on?
PH: On May 7 in Cincinnati Starlin Castro drove in 6 runs in his first big league game within the first five innings. It was unbelievable. Very few things after all these years surprise me. That did.
NBC: Is it hard to come to work when things aren't so great?
PH: Harry Caray taught me that when you sign these contracts you don't just sign up for the good games, you're in it for the long haul regardless. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And you prepare for anything.
NBC: Do you have to steel yourself for losing as a Cubs announcer?
PH: I don't feel slighted in the least. I have covered 4 playoff teams in 14 years. When you look at guys like Jack Brickhouse, Vince Lloyd and Jack Quinlan and Harry Caray-- previous great Cubs broadcasters -- none of those guys covered four playoffs teams in any 14-year spans.
NBC: You and Ron seem sillier this year. A trend?
PH: I think we're both getting older. A little dementia is setting in. I'm speaking of me and not the great Cubs legend of course. I think it's important whether you have a good team or a bad team. It's show-business. You're trying to be informative and entertaining.
NBC: Of course one of the great humor subplots of the year is Ron's toupees.
PH: He's got issues, but we all have issues. Thank goodness for that hairpiece, it's gotten us through a lot of blowouts.
NBC: And you have the ugly sweater.
PH: It's there on those days when you get to Wrigley and its 60 degrees. You need a wrap. It's not the prettiest sweater, nor has it been dry-cleaned on a kind of a regular basis in the better part of a decade. A few years ago some people broke into our booth and stole a bunch of electronic equipment. But there's one thing they didn't steal, the sweater.
NBC: Have you ever thought of a truce -- you stop needling Ron about the hairpiece and he lays off the sweater?
PH: No it would kill the ratings.
NBC: I was checking out your website (http://baseballvoices.com/) featuring your Great Voices CD series. Why is Ron Santo not on the list?
PH: Right now its limited to Hall of Fame baseball announcers. Ronnie is such a special case. So maybe in the future I might have to wave that law. But it might have to be a two-CD situation. The entire first CD is devoted just to the hairpiece.
NBC: Does he lobby for his own CD?
PH: No, but he'll have to pay for it. That's for sure. Either check or cash.
NBC: Do you end up missing the players that get traded?
PH: Put it this way, when Derrek Lee leaves, I'll miss him. He's been one of my all time favorite players. He's a great player and he's so modest and friendly. A-Z he's been one of my favorite players.
NBC: Quick hit, Lebron James -- what's your thought?
PH: Disgusted. The fact he left Cleveland and made a big show of it nationally was insulting. He's a great player, but I could never really look at him the same way again.
NBC: Should Wrigley fans stop throwing the ball back on the field after a home run?
PH: What I don't like about that is a visiting guy has homered and ten seconds later (the radio audience) hears a cheer from our fans. I don't want to hear a cheer from our fan then. It's not a good moment.