Ernie Banks showed us how to lose . . . and be a winner

2007-Ernie-Banks-op3u-5144-mid

“There’s sunshine, fresh air, and the team’s behind us. Let’s play two.”
— Ernie Banks

To say I was always a big fan of Ernie Banks would be stretching the truth, but with his death Friday at age 83, I’m feeling the loss.

1970-Ernie-Banks-006088388Mr. Cub, as he was affectionately known, started playing baseball in Chicago in 1953, before I was born, and he was still playing baseball in Chicago in 1971 when I was a Texas high school boy rooting for the division-rival Houston Astros.

In 19 seasons wearing a Chicago Cubs uniform, Banks played 2,528 games without ever making a playoff appearance. Folks, that is a record of failure.

Maybe that’s why I loved him. Baseball — more than any other sport — embraces failure. A batter can fail seven times out of ten and be considered a great hitter. Ernie Banks embraced a legacy of failure and kept smiling. He would never win a championship, never taste the champagne, yet he is  considered one of the all-time greats, and was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Banks Ernie Plaque 142_NBL_0Today I’m happy to say that I saw Ernie Banks play. I remember seeing him hit a home run in a game I was watching on television, and it’s always a special memory when you can say that you saw a Hall of Famer play.

An eternal optimist who had every reason to be a pessimist, Ernie Banks’ name was synonymous with baseball. He was perhaps the greatest ambassador for the game in my lifetime, and he was a winner in my book.

So long, Ernie. I really do wish that we could play two.

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