Ernie Banks, one of the greatest baseball players in history, died yesterday at age 83.
“Mr. Cub” reached god-like status among the Wrigley Field faithful. He was famous for his love of the game and best-known for his ubiquitous “Let’s play two” quote.
On my first trip to Wrigley as a boy, our family took a tour of the inside of the stadium. We saw Ernie during that tour, and my brother Steve must have introduced himself to the Cubs legend. But all I heard was the tail end of the conversation, Ernie saying, “Hello Steve.”
So naturally, as a 5-year-old boy, I figured that Ernie Banks and my brother were friends — or at least acquaintances.
I was stunned!
I was tickled!
I was in awe of my brother Steve (who was something of a hero to me at that time, anyway)!
For a short time, I carried around the idea that Ernie Banks was on a first-name basis with my brother. Ignorance is truly bliss.
Another good Ernie Banks story…
Ernie lived in L.A. In his later years, I believe. So of course he would venture to Chavez Ravine when the Cubs were in town to play the Dodgers.
He was Ernie Banks, so naturally the Dodgers allowed him to sit in the press box. That turned out to be a bad idea, because cheering is prohibited in the press box. And asking Ernie Banks to stay neutral during a Cubs game is like telling a tiger he’s not allowed to keep his stripes.
Ernie got a little carried away with his cheering and banter, so Dodger officials had to escort him to another part of the stadium.