Chicago Cubs legend and Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks died Friday at 83 years old, the Cubs announced.
“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,” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.
Known for his fun-loving, positive attitude, “Mr. Cub” broke into the major leagues for the Cubs in 1953. Over the course of a 19-year career, all of which came with the Cubs, Banks would hit .274/.330/.500 with 407 doubles, 512 homers and 1,636 RBI. He also racked up 2,583 hits and 1,305 runs.
Anybody who encountered Banks laughed a lot. He made everybody in his company feel special, as if they shared a unique connection that turned into the kind of memory so many Chicagoans recalled Friday night. In the latter innings of his life, Banks liked to ask people he just met if they were married with the hopes of setting them up with their future spouse. He could work a room better than the politicians who would line up to shake his hand. He could be relentless in search of a smile.
“I try to go around and find people to get married all the time,” Banks once told the Tribune. “I don’t like going to more funerals than weddings so I have to find some way to balance out all the funerals I go to.”