There are so many thoughts swirling through my head.
I really started rooting for the Cubs in 1969, when I was 7½ years old. I knew who Ernie Banks was...Mr. Cub, the greatest of all the Cubs. Mr. Optimist, saying things like "The Cubs Will Shine in '69," "Let's Play Two," "The Friendly Confines of Beautiful Wrigley Field."
We copied his batting stance, with his wrists cocked and his fingers wiggling on the bat handle, playing the piano.
I saw him play many times on WGN, but never got to see him play in person. I only went to one game went during his active career (July 22, 1970), and knee trouble was limiting his time on the field. He didn't play that day and he went on the DL the next day. For all intents and purposes, his career was over.
To me, he was the old first baseman. I never knew him as the slugging shortstop, two-time MVP. Billy Williams was my favorite Cub.
But no matter what, Ernie was still, and will always be, Mr. Cub.
After he retired he was a coach for a couple years. He became a team executive. Dallas Green tried to purge the organization of Ernie, but it didn't work. Guess who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Game 1 of the 1984 playoffs. You can't toss aside the face of the franchise.
Ernie worked a few jobs outside the Cubs organization. He moved to California.
Yet Wrigley Field was always home.
And now heaven is his home.
No Cub will ever again wear #14. His number flies from the left-field flagpole. There is a statue of him outside the ballpark. I'm sure the Cubs will add an Ernie Banks memorial to their uniform this season. They are all fitting tributes.
The most fitting and simplest tribute is this....Mr. Cub
He will be missed.
Here are the 397 Ernie Banks cards in my collection: