Chicago Cubs: The difference between Ernie Banks, Oscar Taveras

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Too many times this season, I heard St. Louis Cardinals fans say that honoring Oscar Taveras is the same as honoring Chicago Cubs’ legend Ernie Banks.


I’m sure that more than a handful of St. Louis Cardinals fans will light me up for delving into this topic, especially on the anniversary of Taveras’ death.

But that’s the most appropriate time to do so – because, despite what many believe, there are lessons to be learned from what happened in late October last year, when the much-hyped Cardinals outfielder drunkenly crashed his vehicle, killing both himself and his girlfriend, Emilia Arvelo.

In late May 2015, the Cardinals organization honored Taveras with a video tribute, moment of silence and an ‘OT’ patch on their sleeves, which would remain there for the duration of the season.

It’s understandable that the organization and fan base would want to pay tribute to the young Dominican Republic native. In his first big league postseason action last year, Taveras belted a pinch-hit, game-tying blast in Game 2 of the NLCS – which is similar to how he opened his big league career at Busch Stadium – with a towering home run.

The hype surrounding Taveras and his budding career is something most baseball fans were aware of. For Chicago Cubs fans, it was just another future Cardinals slugger that would probably feast on Cubbie pitching – much the same that players like Yadier Molina have in recent years.

After how this season turned out, Cubs fans can better understand true hype over legitimate prospects: Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler all showcased their talents at one point or another this year, helping lead the team to the NLCS for the first time since 2003.

So, again, while honoring a fallen teammate and prospect is all fine and dandy, it is not remotely comparable to the Chicago Cubs honoring departed Hall of Famer Ernie Banks with a ’14’ patch this season.

Not even close.

Banks was the epitome of a class-act ambassador to the game of baseball. His love of the game and his undying passion for his team and city are traits that, to this day, young fans respect and appreciate – especially at a time when too many believe players are more interested in money and gaudy contracts than playing for a love of America’s pastime.

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In his 19 years in the big leagues, all of which were spent in Chicago with the Cubs, Banks swatted 512 long-balls, winning back-to-back National League MVP awards in 1958 and 1959 and earning 12 trips to the Midsummer Classic. Suffice to say, he earned his stripes.

Paying tribute to Banks following his death in the offseason seemed fitting for a team that seemingly enjoyed the game each day, playing it with fiery passion and high energy. It made too much sense, perhaps, that this year, the Chicago Cubs made a deep postseason run, maybe getting a little help from Mr. Cub himself.

Taveras had a chance to become a player of that caliber. In his time in the Minors, he batted over .300. His swing was one of the purest in all of baseball and there’s no telling what he may have done over the next two decades in Major League Baseball.

But now, we’ll never know – all because Taveras killed himself and someone he loved after making a stupid decision.

It’s something that most people, unfortunately, do at least once in their lives. In this case, whether this was the first time the young outfielder drove drunk or not, it proved to be the last – ruining what otherwise would have been a storied, albeit, brief legacy.

Ernie Banks and Oscar Taveras are different and the same. They both played the game with dedication and enthusiasm. But one lived his life as a positive example to others, while the latter’s greatest contribution to the world may very well be the decision that cost him his life.

Next: Could the Cubs lose their bench coach to the Dodgers?

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