This one hurts. Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,’’ passed away last night at 83.
Unquestionably, one of the highlights about covering baseball was meeting the game’s greats from when I first started following the sport. Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and, of course, Banks.
Mets’ fans, of course, should remember Banks from the 1969 season when he was one of the few likable members of the Cubs. Some might actually have felt sympathy for Banks as he missed the playoffs for yet, another year.
Banks was the longtime face and persona of the Cubs. He was a Wrigley Field fixture who was a pleasant and kind visitor to opposing dugouts. Players loved to shake his hand and listen to his stories.
And, Banks loved to hold court, whether for a group or an individual. If you had a question, or just wanted to say hello, he would greet you and make one feel welcomed.
We’re in an age where too many of today’s athletes prefer to distance themselves from the public that adores them. That was never Banks. People liked him because he genuinely liked people.
The baseball world is a little poorer today without him.