Losing Mr. Cub sucks.
It sucks for all of Cubdom, and all of baseball. Banks was truly a prince within the sport and an ambassador that Chicago was truly proud of.
No one could ever have an issue with his very famous moniker.
I don’t have quite the emotional connection that our own Evan Altman recently expressed, or the connection that some of my older friends and family have to Banks or players like Ron Santo.
They were ahead of my Cubs experience. My personal connection to players started with the likes of Bill Buckner and Ryne Sandberg. Yet, I’m sure you will want to have the tissues ready if I ever lose one of my childhood heroes.
However, my fist Cubs experience was actually with Banks. As a six-year-old boy I was more connected to Star Wars than anything.
My dad owned a restaurant back then and one of his visitors at times was Ernie Banks. Like the generous, thoughtful ambassador he most always was, he sent my dad home with a bag full of Cubs goodies including a pennant, Cubby-bear doll, and a hat for my dad to take home to me.
This was my first brush with anything Cubs, and it left a lasting impression; I remember it clearly to this day. I also remember how fond my parents were of Banks personally and how tickled they were with his gesture, his way of passing on his Cubs karma. They were around celebrities at times and they felt Banks was truly one of a kind, a Chicago icon.
Being in the restaurant business myself, I have had multiple experiences with Mr. Cub over the years. All of them have been pleasant enough. Banks was always outgoing, friendly, and willing to dish out an autograph.
Yet, being around sports celebrities since I was a kid altered my lens on how I view fandom and the worship of players. I’ve seen players behind the scenes and as very real people at times. It is entirely possibly those experiences have even jaded me a bit after getting to know a few.
But Banks in person seemed genuinely enthusiastic and personable, always living up to his stelar reputation.
Being a Cubs fan isn’t necessarily something you choose, it is passed on from generation to generation. In the land of Cubdom, Ernie Banks was royalty.
I never got to see Banks play, but just absorbing stories about him and having his lore passed on through my family and baseball experiences makes me appreciate him nonetheless.
Baseball is about history as much as anything.
Mr. Cub embodied Cubs history: beautiful, nostalgic, regal in a sense, and yet tragic.
Banks is one of the greatest players of all time yet he never reached the postseason in his storied career. Instead, he is remembered as winning MVP’s for last-place clubs. 1969 is celebrated by many as the closest thing the Cubs have to a recent championship team.
It’s sort of right and wrong at the same time, so Cubs.
I will never forget how happy Banks was to be throwing out the first pitch at Game One of the 1984 NLCS. He seemed more excited than anybody in that park. I’m also certain he also hurt as much when that joy eventually gave way to pain again.
It’s too bad he won’t get to see the fruition of Theo Epstein’s grand plan. If anyone deserved to see the Cubs win it was Banks. When they do, you can bet we will feel Bank’s presence.
So Mr. Cub.