“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who never lost his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite years of playing on losing Chicago Cubs teams, died Friday night. He was 83.
The Cubs announced Banks’ death, but did not provide a cause.
“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time,” Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, said in a statement released by the team. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.
“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”
Banks hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career and was fond of saying, “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two!” In fact, that finish to his famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field.
The Cubs paid tribute to Banks on the Wrigley marquee Friday night: