Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks and the raw emotions of the Wrigley faithful

(Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for BMW)
(Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for BMW) /

On what would have been Ernie Banks‘ 88th birthday, we look back at the Chicago Cubs legend and how his spirit lives on in all of us to this very day.

We all know Ernie Banks as a Chicago Cubs icon, a Hall of Famer and perhaps the biggest fan there ever was on the North Side. But, boy, there was so much more to the man we all knew as ‘Mr. Cub.’

Banks lived his life the same way he played for his team – full of emotion. He loved deeply and cared greatly about those close to him. In a day and age where a lot of professional athletes are caught up in scandals or living a social media-worthy life where likes and followers bring gratification and supposed joy, guys like Banks are few and far between.

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Of course, Cubs fans experienced the penultimate moment of joy just over two years ago, watching a throw from Kris Bryant sail across the diamond into the glove of Anthony Rizzo. That put the finishing touch on Chicago’s first World Series championship since 1908 – over two decades before Banks was even born.

Calling that night emotional would be a monumental understatement. And as I watched everyone crying, hugging one another on the field, one person came to mind: Ernie Banks.

Not because he never saw the Cubs win it all. Heck, not even because he not only never played in a Fall Classic, but never even played in the postseason with the team he dedicated his life to. Because watching those grown men embrace one another on the grass of Progressive Field, one of my favorite Ernie Banks’ quotes loomed large.

"“My theme is, ‘the spirit of friendship is the balance of life.’ Not money. Not the World Series. It’s friendship. The relationships I have with people, that’s enough to keep me happy.”"

We’re talking about a guy who did everything in his power to help the Cubs reach that off-in-the-distance mountain. He played 2,528 games in his big league career – all of them for Chicago. He won back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959 and hit 512 home runs, which ranks second in franchise history.

But what mattered more than a ring, more than the personal accolades and honors – were the people in Banks’ life. Despite his tremendous success on the diamond, it was his friendships that brought him joy – even after his playing days concluded and he transitioned from player to legend in the eyes of fans.

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So, here’s to Mr. Cub. May we all take a page out of his book, love a little more, enjoy the little things and learn that a quiet offseason or ownership’s spending strategy is pretty trivial when compared to the love of the game and the people in our lives.