The home radio booth at Wrigley Field is quite cozy, and some might call it cramped. The walk to get there from field level is an arduous, sweat-inducing journey through a maze of stairways and ramps.
Yet some consider it the best seat in baseball.
Pat Hughes has enjoyed that view for the past 12 seasons as the Cubs' play-by-play man for WGN Radio. Prior to heading to Chicago, Hughes spent a dozen years in another coveted baseball radio perch.
He sat next to Brewers legend Bob Uecker.
"Working with Bob was an unforgettable experience," Hughes said from his home in suburban Chicago. "I learned so much about baseball and broadcasting. It was truly an education. And, it was a lot of fun."
Hughes attempted to capture some of the essence of Uecker's broadcast career in a commemorative tribute CD entitled "Bob Uecker -- Mr. Baseball."
When people consider Uecker as a broadcaster, they often think of the humor that he injects into games -- the funny anecdotes, the self-deprecation and the unexpected tangents.
Hughes knows that's just part of the equation.
"Bob has the talent to make an uneventful game sound entertaining as well as anyone in the world," he said. "But, the thing about him as a broadcaster is that he really takes it seriously.
"He's a paradox in some ways. There is an air of indifference, but he really does care. I've seen him do commercials where he'll do something perfectly. He could be done in one take. But, he'll do it 10, 12 or 15 times until he is certain that it is absolutely right."
There are no "do-overs" during a live baseball broadcast. But, Uecker generally doesn't need any.
"Nobody knows more about the game of baseball than Bob Uecker," Hughes said. "When you think about it, he has spent most of his life around the game, first as a player and then for nearly 40 years as a broadcaster. His knowledge of the game is incredible. When you mix in the technical excellence along with the humor he injects into the game, it's easy to see why he's a Hall of Fame broadcaster."
The 70-minute CD, produced and narrated by Hughes, features famous broadcast calls from Uecker as well as snippets of interviews and his numerous appearances in movies, TV and commercials.
"One of the toughest parts of putting this together was limiting it to 70 minutes so we could keep it on one CD," Hughes said. "There was just so much material."
Brewers fans will enjoy hearing Uecker's trademark home run call "Get up! Get up! Get out of here! Gone!" as well as standout moments such as Juan Nieves' no-hitter, Robin Yount's 3,000th hit and the Easter Sunday game in 1987, which featured an amazing comeback that extended the Brewers' season-opening winning streak to 12 games.
"When it comes to big moments, Bob is one of the best," Hughes said. "A lot of times, with things like a milestone hit or home run, you know they're coming and as an announcer you can have an idea what you might say when they happen, but you have to guard against sounding scripted. Bob never does.
"Another thing that is difficult, particularly for young broadcasters, is to call an exciting moment in game. Your voice goes up, but you still have to convey information without screaming. Bob is very good at the big moments."
One of those moments came early in Uecker's broadcasting career, when he called a run scoring hit by Hank Aaron, who took over the all-time RBI lead.
"I had never heard that call before," said Hughes, who considers it one of his favorite inclusions on the CD. "It's tremendous. I think that's the neatest thing about this CD. Brewers fans certainly know Bob Uecker and are familiar with his work. But, I think there are moments on this CD that people might not remember or have never heard."
Uecker's career as a player, which has been a source of his comedy for decades, is covered briefly on the CD.
"Most people know that Bob was a catcher," Hughes said. "He jokes about his hitting, but he was regarded as a very good defensive catcher. Well, I didn't know until I started doing this that Bob started out in baseball as a pitcher. He was pretty good, too, but one day he was having a tough day on the mound and he was really taking it out on his catcher. Finally, the catcher had enough and told the manager ‘If Uecker thinks it's so easy, let him catch.' And, Bob put on the gear and started catching.
"Those are the types of things, along with the calls, that I think fans will really enjoy. I hope they will, anyway. I had a good time putting this together."
The CD, which includes Uecker's Hall of Fame induction speech as well as an hilarious exchange with Hughes about contest winner Myrtle Steele, is available at baseballvoices.com.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.