Michael Wilbon discusses a life and career of Chicago Cubs good Ernie Banks.

January 24, 2015 - photo frame

Michael Wilbon Remembers Ernie Banks


It was a fascinating time to be a sports-obsessed child in Chicago, a 1960s and early ’70s. It wasn’t a winning that bending us; with all due honour to a 1961 Blackhawks and a 1963 Bears, there wasn’t that many of it. It was a stars, a implausible register of iconic players we got to follow and tumble in adore with. Sayers and Butkus and Ditka; Hull and Mikita; Aparicio, Sloan and Van Lier; Love and Walker; Santo and Jenkins; Williams and, of course, Ernie Banks. Even in that organisation of jaunty gods, Banks would have sat during a conduct of a table.

[+] EnlargeErnie Banks

By a time we was 12 or 13, I’d ostensible that there were improved ball players, Aaron and Mays and Mantle and F. Robby among them. But nothing of them were a ambassadors for ball Banks was, nothing represented his group or his city some-more superbly or some-more joyously.

I was innate and lifted on a South Side of Chicago, that means by legacy we was ostensible to hatred a Cubs. But there was nobody in a universe who could speak me into rooting opposite Ernie Banks. One of a 4 teams in my small joining in West Chatham Park had “Ernie Banks Ford” on a jerseys, since Banks and his automobile dealership were a co-sponsor of my small league. Maybe we don’t have a small joining in my park though Ernie Banks.

He lived in a right place and during a right time, when even icons pronounced good morning when they walked into an elevator, or kissed a lady’s palm on introduction. His demeanour was true Middle America. If we had something bad to contend about Ernie Banks, they were fighting words, since he was a king among group and a damn good ballplayer to boot. By a time my small buddies and we were 6, 7 years old, we could reason a bat high like Banks, shake a fingers pinkie to index, only like Banks, run to initial bottom with that lanky gait, only like Banks. He was substantially a biggest attack shortstop ever, until Cal Ripken came along. He won a MVP twice, led a National League in home runs and RBIs twice each, that was unheard of in those days for a shortstop. He was a Cubs’ initial black player, that brought with it some-more highlight than we ever knew, since all Banks did publicly — no matter what he faced secretly in a nation’s many segregated city — was grin and shake hands and lick cheeks and say, “Let’s play two!” and strike home runs and make people happy.

Yes, they were easier times athletically, a 1960s. You didn’t indispensably get crucified if your group didn’t win, not if we brought a authorization and a city respect as Banks did each singular day for 19 years as a Cubs’ shortstop, afterwards initial baseman. Surely he wanted to during slightest play in a World Series, though his life certainly wasn’t tangible by his disaster to do so. And how anxious my relatives contingency have been that their sons’ initial jaunty idol, Mr. Banks, was a male who embodied all a values they hold dear: that he was decent and jaunty behind when that mattered, that he was approachable, officious sunny, a gentleman.

[+] EnlargeErnie Banks

They contend we should never accommodate your idols — it’s too risky. He could be carrying a bad day and not feel like articulate or signing an designation or interacting in any way. You don’t wish to be disappointed, folks used to say. Just keep your distance. I’m a propitious kid. we met all my sporting idols, each one of them, including someone who came a small later, a late Walter Payton. Strangely enough, a final one we got to accommodate was Ernie Banks.

I’d been a sportswriter for substantially 15 years though never crossed paths with Mr. Cub. we was covering a golf eventuality in Chicago and Banks walked into a room. we was perplexing to get adult a haughtiness to deliver myself to him, explain how he influenced my childhood going behind to small league. As we fidgeted, Banks shimmied between a bodies, put his palm on my shoulder and said, “Michael, how are you? Don’t we forget about a kids where we grew up, since they need to see you.” we don’t know that I’ve ever been some-more astounded in my life, or some-more appreciative that another male knew my name.

I’m certain everybody who spent any genuine time in Chicago over a past 60 years has an Ernie Banks story. A talented, young, violinist crony who plays for a Chicago Lyric Opera called me a year ago, when Banks was 82, and pronounced that Ernie was welcomed onstage during a unison one night, grabbed her violin and told her he wanted to take lessons. He remembered everybody’s name and memorized crazy things about their lives so that when he met them, a review wouldn’t be wholly slanted toward him — there was something about a memory category he took decades earlier.

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I bought dual Ernie Banks reversion jerseys 10 or so years ago, a complicated nap ones they wore in a early 1960s. I’ve never asked for an designation otherwise, never ever, though we told Ernie we had a jerseys and I’d like him to pointer them so we could support and hang them. He said, “I wish we to do me a favor. Wear ’em to a diversion or something. Don’t support ’em. They were done to be worn.” And so we will. This week. To respect a male who used his jaunty gifts and his advanced celebrity to move generations of people fun in a approach few athletes ever have.

I theory childhood strictly is over now that Ernie Banks has left us. There’s been speak all winter about a Cubs building toward something special. Ernie always pronounced when a Cubs finally won a World Series — it’s 106 years and counting — he wanted to go to Wrigley Field one night and only mount there alone, in a dark, and soak it all in. So we know what we’re thinking, all a small kids who are over 50 now and who watched Banks play all those years ago. Maybe this will be a Cubs’ time. They’ll wear his No. 14 on their jerseys this deteriorate and feel about a Cubbies a approach he did, that is to contend desirous and joyous and prepared each singular day to play two.

Michael Wilbon | email

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