January 26, 2015
Those that know me understand that I am a huge baseball fan. So today, instead of blogging about business, my ideas and beliefs I am devoting this time to remember Ernie Banks, who died Friday.
All too often the past few years, I have taken to writing my memories of my boyhood heroes that have passed. On Friday, Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, joined Mickey and Stan in heaven. I am sure he is the starting shortstop in a double header slated for today.
My guess is that those in Chicago have many more vivid memories of Ernie than I do and can relate some wonderful tales.
This morning I pulled out my autographed by Ernie Banks Strat-o-Matic Hall of Fame card and reflected on how he touched me over the years. I got to meet Ernie twice. As one would expect he was incredibly warm, personable, out-going, and displayed that incredible smile.
The first time I met Mr. Banks was at a hotel in Raleigh prior to a Pete Rose Roast in 1981. He was one of the celebrities Roasting Pete. At the time I was a Store Manager and when Barry Foote, a Raleigh resident and teammate of Rose’s on the Phillies 1980 Championship team, set up a Charity Roast for the Boys Club in Raleigh, I was able to get our merchandising staff to have Rose sign autographs at my store prior to the Roast. When I delivered Rose to the hotel I was introduced to Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddux, Catfish Hunter and a few other Major League ballplayers. Then the room lit up as Mr. Cub entered with his big smile and said, “Let’s play two.” He became the center of attention and entertained everyone for a few moments. That is when he graciously signed and dated his (my) Hall of Fame Strat card.
The next time I met Ernie was a few years later in Miami when I attended a Baseball Card Show. I specifically went because he was going to be in attendance. At the time I went, the crowd was sparse and Ernie was having fun joking with everyone and telling stories. As I went by, he said that I looked familiar (I doubt if I really did), but he was gracious and I conveyed to him my story about meeting him in Raleigh a few years earlier and that I had seen him play in the 1962 All Star game in Washington, D.C. I related to him that I saw him hit one of the two upper deck batting practice homeruns that day. The only other was hit by Willie Mays. This was the days before the Home Run Derby and for those that remember RFK stadium, there was no lower deck in the outfield and an upper deck shot was quite impressive.
Before Strat-O-Matic (a table top dice game), my Dad and I played APBA and I remember how impressive the Ernie Banks card was. His card had lots of homeruns, doubles and the highest fielding rating at shortstop in the game. I believe Luis Aparicio, another Hall of Famer had the same rating.
I happened to be at the right place, at the right time to catch the unveiling ceremony of the Ernie Banks statue at Wrigley on television, live.
Many know how much my Dad loved baseball. Ernie Banks was quoted in one of the eulogies at my Dad’s funeral. One of the neighbors my Father coached when we were growing up stated, “We got sunshine, fresh air, the team behind us. Let’s play two.” as tribute to my Father.
Rest in Peace Mr. Cub.