‘Mr. Cub’ Ernie Banks Dies At 83
Hall of Fame slugger Ernie Banks died Friday night at age 83.
The Cubs announced Banks' death, but did not provide a cause. "Mr. Cub'' hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career, including five seasons with 40 or more.
He was fond of saying, "It's a great day for baseball. Let's play two!'' That remains a catchphrase at Wrigley Field to this day.
"Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time,'' Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known.''
Banks captured the NL Most Valuable Player award in 1958 and `59 and went to 11 All-Star games from 1955-69. But his Cubs never finished better than second place during his career, making him one of the greatest players to never appear in a postseason game.
"I was honored to learn many things from him while I was in the Cubs organization," said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, a one-time minor league player, in a statement. "And I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with him throughout the years in our joint efforts to help others."
In a 2011 event at Wrigley Field on baseball history put on by Chicago Ideas Week, 'Mr. Cub' reflected on his major league debut, a 16 to 4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1953.
(photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
“We had lost 10 straight," he said. "So my first appearance walking into this field, we were losing. So in my mind, I said, ‘you don’t have to win to win, - what do you mean by that? I say to myself, you can win the respect of the fans, the writers, your family. That kind of winning lasts longer, even after you’re retired or gone on.”
Banks was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year of eligibility. He also was selected to baseball's All-Century team in 1999.
Gov. Bruce Rauner released a statement Friday night.
“Ernie Banks was a trail blazer who helped break down barriers, a veteran who served his country with honor, a respected community leader and the greatest Chicago Cub of all time,” he said. “While we mourn him here, there’s no doubt that up in heaven, ‘Mr. Cub’ is lacing up his cleats and asking Saint Peter if they can ‘play two.’ Ernie Banks’ passion for baseball and for life showed us what true joy looks like and captured our hearts. He inspired us all.”
A makeshift memorial outside Wrigley Field on Saturday included flowers, an Ernie Banks bobblehead and pictures of the Chicago Cubs great with fans. A No. 14 jersey was draped over one part of a small fence with the inscription "'Let's play two'" — the iconic saying he was known for — and then "Not without you" written under his trademark line.
Commissioner Bud Selig said Saturday in a statement that Banks' "joyous outlook will never be forgotten by fans of the Cubs and all those who love baseball."
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were among those praising Banks and his legacy.