I met Ernie Banks only once, and it came as a fan – where else? – at the Cubs Convention.
It was my first Convention, and, in my grab bag, I won the right to get an autograph from Ernie. To get it, you had to show up at a certain time, and then wait in a line. The room in which we waited was not large, and the line was not significant. But almost an hour later, I still wasn’t close to reaching Ernie. I remember being frustrated and thinking that everyone in front of me was a selfish jerk, likely taking up way more of Ernie’s time than he wanted, with no regard for anyone else who was waiting, let alone the 80-year-old man they were boring with their personal stories.
By the time I finally reached the double doors to the adjacent room where Ernie was signing, the delay became clear. Ernie was holding court and befriending everyone who came in. Not because he commanded or craved attention, or because he was oblivious to the legions of fans waiting to see him. It was because, with every kid who approached, every grown man clutching a baseball, Ernie wanted to talk to them. He wanted to know them. Just a little bit. With whatever time he had to give them.
When you think about how many people he’s met over his many years, it’s truly incredible that he was still doing that kind of thing. Ernie Banks didn’t just have a special talent on the baseball field – he clearly had a special talent off of it, too.
A few more memories of, and tributes to, the one and only Mr. Cub, who passed away on Friday …
- In today’s papers:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 25, 2015
- The final line really gets me:
— MLB (@MLB) January 24, 2015
- From the Commissioner, on his last day:
Statement from Commissioner Selig on the passing of Ernie Banks: pic.twitter.com/sidygEYGzY
— MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) January 24, 2015
- I don’t know how plausible this really is, but it is a wonderful idea:
Ernie Banks debuted on 9/17/53. Cubs should make 9/17 Ernie Banks Day and play an annual home doubleheader.
— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) January 24, 2015
- For those who haven’t seen this before:
- Billy Williams and Bruce Miles celebrate a life.
- More tributes collected in the Tribune.
- This applies to my own story at the top of this post:
With Ernie Banks' passing, you're going to hear a million personal stories about how kind & happy he was all the time. They're all true.
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) January 24, 2015