Ernie Banks, 'Mr. Cub' passes away at 83

'Nobody Laughed Like Ernie Banks'

College Contributor Network

As the Cubs boost their roster and renovate the Friendly Confines in preparation for an exciting 2015 season, there will be one unwelcome change as the franchise has lost its beloved, Mr. Cub. Ernie Banks passed away Friday night, a week shy of his 84th birthday. What Banks meant to the Cubs' organization, and countless fans and players outside of it cannot be overstated. He was a star on the field, whose star personality earned him respect and admiration long past his playing days.

Banks was best known for his trademark enthusiasm, despite being on several Cubs teams that finished below .500, and is remembered by his trademark phrase, "Let's play two!" Mr. Cub loved the game and he loved the Chicago Cubs.

Banks got his major league start with the Cubs in 1953, after a stint with the Kansas City Monarchs. On September 20, 1953, the 22-year-old shortstop hit his first home run. Just two short seasons later, Banks racked up 44 home runs in the '55 season. What would follow would be some of the most memorable events in the Cubs' storied history.

His love for the game showed in a career that saw 512 home runs, 14 all-star games in 19 seasons and 2,583 career hits. He was the first National League player to win back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year of eligibility. In his 19 seasons, Banks played 2,528 games with one team, the Chicago Cubs. In his prime, Banks played 717 consecutive games at shortstop. His No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and hangs on a flag in left field.

Indeed it is hard to imagine the Cubs' history without Ernie Banks. The Chicago Cubs are built on over 100 years of tradition and history, Banks was and is one of the pillars of that legacy, and is a vital part of the story of the game of baseball itself. It is easy for many to overlook Banks due to the team he played for and the heavy-hitters that surrounded him in that era of baseball. But it is important to keep in mind that Banks was winning MVP awards when Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were in their respective primes.

Banks' respect for everyone he met was a gift which everyone could profit from. Whether it was the extra time he took with fans and reporters or the rhyming phrases he came up with every season, bringing smiles to everyone around him. Ernie Banks touched so many lives, even people he never met.

Banks was not only a world-class baseball player. He was a veteran of the Korean War and, in 2013, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a citizen of the United States can receive.

On New Year's Day, Mr. Cub posted a hopeful message to his Facebook account. "Thank you to everyone. It's hard to sleep right now. Looking forward to 2015. The Cubs will be Supreme in 2015." That message, now haunting, will be in many peoples minds when baseball season rolls around.

With Jon Lester, Dexter Fowler, several other pickups and some returning veterans this season was certainly shaping up to be a big one on the North Side. But now, as the No. 14 flag waves above left field, Mr. Cub is looking down with hope and his signature smile.

Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports
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