Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,” dies at 83

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Ernie Banks died last night at the age of 83.

Banks played his entire career for the Chicago Cubs. He was their first-ever African-American player, was an All-Star 14 times, won a Gold Glove as a shortstop in 1960, won two MVP awards in 1958 and 1959, and won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1967. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 on the first ballot. And he also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Banks had a remarkable career (check out this article from Yahoo Sports’ “Big League Stew” blog if you don’t believe me). He was a trailblazer, both as a player and as a coach.

But it’s not because of any of those things that I felt so terrible when I heard the news that Ernie Banks had died.

Banks was a quality individual, you see. He was one of those people who made you smile, simply by being around him. And he was the best ambassador for his beloved Cubs they’d ever had — hence his nickname, “Mr. Cub” — much less Major League Baseball as a whole.

Banks never went to the playoffs with his Cubs, but he always believed he would go — and nearly did in 1969, the year of the Cubs’ epic collapse. Because of his positive attitude, people loved being around him. And he enjoyed talking to the media, mostly because he saw it as a privilege rather than an obstacle. (Check out these great quotes as listed by the Chicago Tribune.)

Ernie Banks, quite simply, was a hero. He didn’t see himself that way, of course, but heroes never do.

I mourn his passing deeply.

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