Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rest in peace, Ernie Banks

The City of Chicago and the country is mourning the loss of the back-to-back National League MVP  (1958-59) and the first African-American player on the Cubs also known as "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks. 

The shortstop known for his positive personality and dedicated loyalty to the Cubs passed away on Friday, January 23 at the age of 83. 

Ernie Banks in 2014 (Chicago Tribune photo)
I feel very lucky to have met Mr. Banks on a couple of occasions and he always made me feel like I was the most important person he was talking to and that he genuinely cared about our conversation. 

Ernie Banks at Wrigley Field in the 1970s (Chicago Tribune photo)
Reading quotes, tweets and comments from others about Mr. Banks only solidifies my feelings for him even more.  Here's what some had to say:

"Approachable, ever optimistic and kindhearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub.  My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie's life in the days ahead."  --Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts

"He was always an individual who was the happy type.  He was always an optimist.  You only saw the cheerful side of Ernie."  --Teammate and Hall of Fame Member Fergie Jenkins

"Mr Cub.  What you have done for the game of baseball and the city of Chicago and everyone you have ever touched will never be forgotten.  RIP"  --Tweet from Anthony Rizzo

"New to the family but always admired Ernie Banks. Mr. Cub's play on the field was only matched by his demeanor off of it. "  --Tweet from new Cubs Pitcher Jon Lester

"Ernie actually didnt get ENOUGH credit as player bc never talked about himself. He was way more interested in the person he was talking to"  --Tweet from Len Kasper

"RIP Ernie banks/ sad day for Chicago and cubs nation - great human being"  --Tweet from actor and Chicago native John Cusack

"We lost a legend tonight. Sad night."  --New Cubs Outfielder Dexter Fowler

And there are many, many more if you scan Twitter, the internet or the media.  Here's a link from the Chicago Tribune to an in-depth article that's worth reading about Mr. Cub.  

Ernie Banks hit his 500th career home run on May 12, 1970 (Chicago Tribune photo)
Even though Mr. Banks was an amazing player, he never talked about himself or touted his accomplishments.  Banks is the Cubs' all-time leader in games played (2,528), at-bats (9,421), home runs (512), total bases (4,706) and extra-base hits (1,009).

Mr. Cub was second in all-time hits (2,583), home runs (512) and RBIs (1,636) for the Cubs franchise during his 19 seasons played from 1953-1971.  

Banks was a National League All-Star for 11 seasons and played in 14 All-Star games.  Mr. Cub hit his 500th career home run in 1970 and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.  More recently, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2013.

Ernie Banks is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on November 20, 2013 (Chicago Tribune photo)
Banks coached for the Cubs until 1973, served as a minor-league instructor from 1974-76 and also worked in the Cubs front office.  His uniform No. 14 was the first one to be retired by the Cubs organization and can be seen on game days on the left field foul pole.

Mr. Cub will always be remembered in the minds of so many and his contribution to baseball and everyone he met will definitely live on.  Let's play two!

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