I never thought Ernie Banks passing would affect me like this. I'm not the type to be openly weeping but I am. Listening to the radio and hearing story after story of people that wanted to share their personal stories of meeting Ernie and the uplifting impact he had on everyone he touched. We are all little kids somewhere inside and Ernie was magic when it came to Cub fans. He was Chicago's treasure from the 1950's to the present. After his career, he became one of the greatest baseball Ambassadors, leading to him receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Mr. Cub was a wonderful ballplayer and a two time MVP shortstop. He was a hitter who had that amazing batting stance and power that came from his wrists. Ernie was only the 7th player to hit 500 homers. He is one of the few that was a Cub his entire 19 season career which is itself a rarity. Of course, the Wrigley management was a part of that. Arizona Phil, in one of my favorite TCR posts ever (from 1-31-10) tells of several inflection points where the Cubs could have moved him, particularly when Leo Durocher was managing.
Leo also desperately wanted to get rid of Ernie Banks, but Phil Wrigley would NEVER agree to trade Ern. That was the one thing that Leo wanted that he couldn’t get. He could not get rid of Ernie Banks. Leo could not stand Ernie’s cheerfulness, optimism, and “let’s play two!” good fellowship, believing that nice guys like Ernie were losers, and Leo absolutely HATED losers.
Baseball is a team sport. Durocher was an often mean spirited man and was the antithesis to Ernie's love for people. Which one makes the world become a better place? Joe Maddon responds to this in a better way, "Never let the pressure, exceed the pleasure."
Ernie came to the Majors in an era that brought breakthrough racial change to American society and he was a constant positive, always remaining upbeat in a time when life brought race related challenges every day. Ernie represented one of the perfect solutions to what Americans needed to overcome. Never a hot headed or angry man, everyone knew him as the eternal optimist ("the Cubs will be fine in sixty-nine"), he brought to so many Cub fans a philosophy that keeps us going in the face of what seems to be a never-ending wait for our time to get the brass ring. I think many of us wanted to see Ernie's response to that day when the Cubs win the World Series. Now we will just have to imagine how he reacts, seated in the front row, from heaven above.
Have at it, by adding your own memories of Mr. Cub, as we celebrate his life. My favorite personal encounter with Ernie in 1979, is in the following TCR link.
Close Encounters with Mr. Cub