Sunday, January 25, 2015

Remembering Ernie Banks — Mr. Cub

I was really saddened at hearing about Ernie Banks death. There was an update from ESPN on my phone late Friday that announced he had died.

His catch phrase: "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!"

Such an incredible and wonderful person. The out pouring of love about this man has been just wonderful. Many of my friends on Facebook who grew up in Chicago posted about him.

Here's a little of the coverage from the press:
“Ernie was exactly what you saw,” said Don Kessinger, a shortstop who played with Banks in the 1960s. “He was a great ballplayer, a great teammate and a great friend.”

What everyone saw included 512 home runs during a 19-year career that put him in the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. But perhaps more importantly, what everyone appreciated was “Mr. Cub,” an always positive attitude that sparked a steady stream of tributes after Banks’ death Friday night at age 83.

“I know he was Mr. Cub, but he was really Mr. Baseball,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said.

“He was really a great, great ambassador for the game.”

A makeshift memorial outside Wrigley Field on Saturday included flowers, an Ernie Banks bobblehead and pictures of the slugger with fans. A No. 14 jersey was draped over one part of a small fence with the inscription “’Let’s play two’” — the iconic saying he was known for — and then “Not without you” written under his trademark line.

From USA Today:
He played 2,528 games – a Cubs record -- but none in the postseason. That's a major league record for games without a playoff appearance.

His 19-year career – all with the Cubs – had just one winning season among the first 14, but he was the National League MVP in 1958 and '59, two of those losing seasons.

He was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1977 but the impact of his contributions beyond his playing days was underscored when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

When Banks received the medal from President Barack Obama, who grew up as a White Sox fan on the south side of Chicago, he explained the origin of the "Let's Play Two" slogan.

"It was a very bad day in Chicago," Banks said. "I came into the locker room, and I was feeling great. And I said to all my teammates, 'It's a beautiful day -- let's play two!' That was a time in my life that I was really excited about going to Wrigley Field."

Here's Banks' reaction to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Last year I saw Banks on the Tim McCarver show. It was very interesting to hear what he had to say. He said he didn't know a great deal about handling money but he wanted to learn. So he went and asked Mr. Wrigley (which is how Banks referred to Wrigley during the entire interview: Mr. Wringley). Wrigley gave him some advice and Banks took it.

He put a little money away from each pay check. Then looked for palces to invest it. One of those investments was in a Ford dealership. He was the first African-American Ford dealer not in Chicago or in Illinois but in the entire country. I was so glad I got to see the interview.

I've been thinking, since his passing, if it was possible that I actually saw him play. He stopped playing in 1971 so I would have been 12 at the time. I remember the first game I went to and I have a feeling I was younger than 12. It was very exciting. I went with my dad and brother. I believe the Cubs played the Giants. I do remember a Giants player hitting a home run and the Cubs loosing. I'm also pretty sure I saw Ernie Banks play. I certainly remember watching him on television.

I watched a YouTube video of his 500th home run. It was great to see. It was also great to hear Jack Brickhouse make the call.

Banks had an amazing career and life. Such a class athlete. Actually just a class act period.

He will be missed.

I want to add one more article about Banks by Tom Boswell of the Post. He says in part:
In a baseball sense, Banks is an immortal because he averaged 41 homers and 115 RBI a year as a shortstop from 1955 to 1960, making himself the equal of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or anybody else in the game for those half-dozen years.

There had never before been a middle infielder with such power. And to this day, there still hasn’t. Banks won a gold glove, too. Switching to first base and remaining a solid hitter until he had amassed 512 homers assured him a place in the Hall.

But it is the Other Banks, the man who exemplified an entire stance toward how we approach life, who will be remembered long after most of baseball’s 500-home run men are forgotten.

No comments: