Baseball is the perfect game: It slowly awakens from its long winter slumber and begins anew in the spring, the time of rebirth, and continues on through the long and idyllic days of summer. It concludes in the fall when the leaves change and slowly fall off the branches, the air becoming chilly before the bitter cold of winter. If baseball is the perfect game, then Ernie Banks was its perfect player. Banks was beloved by all, not just by fans of the Cubs and not just by fans of baseball, but by those who appreciate everything that is right with humanity. Playing for one of baseball’s most moribund franchises, Banks always wore a smile and treated everyone he encountered with kindness and warmth.
Banks played for 19 years with the Chicago Cubs, but he remained an eminent figure in baseball long after his retirement and his subsequent election to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977. He was an ambassador of the sport, but he was also an ambassador of joy, espousing a philosophy of eternal optimism and an appreciation for life itself. Now that Banks has passed away at the age of 83, baseball is left with a void that simply cannot be filled. Banks’ longevity with the Cubs and his affection for the city in which he played is a rarity in this age, and now that Derek Jeter has retired, it seems unlikely that we will see such a perfect union of player and city in baseball for quite some time.
Fortunately for baseball and its fans, Banks has left an enduring legacy that can be appreciated for many generations to come. Forever Mr. Cub, Banks’ legend will remain strong not just in Chicago, but in every city that hosts a baseball team. There is a lot to love about Banks, and what follows are just 10 of the limitless reasons to appreciate the life of Mr. Cub.
10 His Boundless Optimism
9 A Fondness for Every Person
8 His Work as Baseball’s Greatest Ambassador
7 Unrelenting Joy for Life and Baseball
6 His Status as One of the Game’s All-Time Best Players
5 Complete and Honest Humility
4 A Crossover Icon
3 The Stories He Will Leave Behind
2 His Affection for Handball
1 The Game’s Greatest Saying: “Let’s Play Two!”
No matter how poorly the Chicago Cubs fared, Ernie Banks used his signature phrase to remind those around him how fortunate they were to be playing a game for a living, to be out in the sunshine of Wrigley Field playing a beautiful sport in a beautiful place. “Let’s play two,” will forever be associated with an undying love for the game of baseball, in much the same way that Ernie Banks’ life will. Speaking at his Hall of Fame election in 1977, Banks uttered his famous phrase methodically while standing on the podium and surrounded by the verdant scenery of Cooperstown, saying, “There’s sunshine, fresh air, and the team’s behind us. Let’s play two.”
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