Saturday, January 31, 2015

Meeting Ernie Banks

Today, the city of Chicago buried one of its sports greats, Ernie Banks -- Mr. Cub. Banks had a long history in Chicago, playing for the lovable loser Chicago Cubs and later having various positions in greater Chicagoland. Banks was famous for his love of the "friendly confines" of Wrigley Field, day baseball, and his enthusiastic saying "Let's play two." Banks was likely the most beloved Chicago sports start of my lifetime.

Growing up in suburban Chicago, I watched many of Banks's games on WGN. Unfortunately, I watched his later years when his skills were diminishing as the Cubs's hopes were rising, culminating in one of the greatest disappointments of my early life: the collapse of the 1969 Cubs.

I did get to meet Ernie Banks once, however. It was quite some time ago so the details might be a little off. I think I was in about sixth grade, and my junior high basketball team was playing against a team that featured Banks's twin sons. The baseball season was long over for the Cubs (heh), and we hoped that we would get to meet Banks at the game. We were cautioned that he might not be there because of his many commitments and that even if he was, we were there to play a game and might not get to meet him.

I remember that my team won because my junior high school basketball team only lost a handful of games in three years. However, the memorable part was the Mr. Cub came over after the game to shake hands with the members of my team. He didn't look happy that his sons' team lost, but I figured that handling losses was something he had gotten used to with the mid-60's Cubs. But coming over to thrill a bunch of junior high boys? That was the kind of guy that Ernie Banks was.

One of my great baseball television memories was watching the game when Banks hit his 500th career home run. Jack Brickhouse had been enthusiastically waiting to announce that moment for some time. A funny part of the story is that Banks actually had a triple (more than one, I think) between homers 499 and 500. As I recall, there was a chance that Banks could have had an inside-the-park home run for #500, but he was held at third.

So long, Mr. Cub. You were one of a kind.


Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Whether you were a Cubs' fan or not, everybody loved Ernie Banks. Let's play too, indeed.

10:54 PM  
Blogger angerisagift said...

R.I.P. Mr Cubs.

12:36 AM  
Blogger ~Coach said...


1:08 AM  
Anonymous KenP said...

Well, his rookie card is available on ebay. The best one is 3-grand. In honor of Ernie, why not get two.

Seemed as fine a gentlemen as he was a player.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

I felt a mix of both sadness and nostalgia when I heard the news. When I first started following baseball, he was one of the best players, always mentioned in the same category as Mays, Mantle, Aaron, Musial, etc. Even tho I wasn't a Cubs fan I had much respect for him.

And I never, ever heard anyone say a bad thing about him.

Yeah, as soon as I heard the news, I thought, "Let's play two."

I never knew you were a star basketball player in your youth, Lightning? So what prevented you from tearing up the NBA?

1:04 PM  
Blogger norm said...

Hmmmm ......about the Chicago's about Mr. Michael Jordan???????????

9:16 AM  
Blogger angerisagift said...

uh Norm what about Walter Payton or Bartman??

1:29 AM  
Blogger martin gale said...

i too, saw ernie banks hit his 500th on TV. I remember going to some cubs games with my dad and seeing ernie banks and all the cubs. one of the games we went to was the day after ken holtzman's 2nd no-hitter.
I was also at Wrigley field's 100th birthday last year and ernie banks was there.

7:46 PM  

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