Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Lunch With Ernie Banks

English: black and white photo of the bronze s...
English: black and white photo of the bronze statue of Ernie Banks (Mr Cub) at Wrigley Field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK so this post has little to do with special education law.  Except maybe that my only sports addiction, the Chicago Cubs, is all about rooting for the underdog...  Anyway let's call it a point of personal privilege.

Ernie Banks died yesterday.  He was my favorite player. When I was a kid, he was the big star on a long series of bad teams.  I saw him hit a few home runs at Wrigley Field, and every time he came to the plate, there was hope. He was our hero.

He was amazingly good.  The first African American to play on the Cubs; he began in the Negro League.  He was a slick fielding shortstop and later a good first baseman.  But wow how he could hit. He led the league in home runs twice.  Twice he was voted the Most Valuable Player despite playing on losing teams. He hit over 500 home runs, and he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  Here is a video by the Cubs remembering Ernie Banks. Here is an ESPN look at his life. Here is Ernie receiving the Medal of Freedom last year.

More than anything though, he was an optimist- a breath of fresh air.  In stark contrast to the big money and performance-enhancing drugs that have lessened the popularity of baseball today, Ernie would encourage unnecessary double-headers by stating... "let's play two." It is sad that he did not livelong enough to see the Cubs win a World Series.

When I worked in Chicago, I knew one of Ernie's lawyers.  He arranged for me to have lunch one day with Mr. Cub.  It was one of the big thrills of my life.  He was an incredibly nice guy- down to earth and a great storyteller. I'm sworn to secrecy about what he said concerning his favorite manager, Leo Durocher. What an amazing treat.  We will miss you Ernie.