RIP, Ernie Banks

I had what you might call the quintessential Ernie Banks fan encounter about 25 years ago, by default, on the Blue line to O’Hare, of all places. Fairly new to Chicago, but a fair baseball fan, I knew of Banks, who was retired, but not enough to recognize the pleasant looking man sitting in the nearly empty car. We exchanged cordial smiles and nods as I passed him to sit 2 rows back. Not long after, the prototypical middle-aged Chicago male (of the times, which were very different from today–think SNL’s “Da Bears” skit) approached the man and started to talk. Uh-oh, I thought, this might be trouble. But no, this man, who from across the length of the car had recognized the great Ernie Banks, had come to pay respect. Not only did he recognize him, it seemed he knew everything about Banks’s career. Specific plays from specific games in this or that year against team X. Ernie was gracious, pleased, and giving. The conversation did not lag. And I got to witness that lucky fan’s whole experience during a 45-minute ride to the airport. Unforgettable. I fell in love with Banks that day, just like everyone else. RIP, Mr Cub, Ernie Banks

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