White Sox honor, remember Mr. Cub at SoxFest

Moment of silence held for crosstown hero Banks, who passed away at 83

White Sox honor, remember Mr. Cub at SoxFest

CHICAGO -- The name of Mr. Cub appropriately was attached to Ernie Banks during the 19 years he played on the North Side of Chicago, and pretty much for eternity after he retired in 1971.

But White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf believes that description for the Hall of Famer, who passed away at the age of 83 on Friday, should be expanded to a broader baseball spectrum.

"I know he was Mr. Cub, but he really was Mr. Baseball," said Reinsdorf, speaking of Banks at the end of Saturday's SoxFest activities, which began with a moment of silence for Banks. "He was really a great, great ambassador for the game."

Although this weekend is all about the White Sox at the Hilton Chicago, Banks' passing was on the mind of many associated with the crosstown rivals. It was the legacy of smiles, happiness and optimism left by Banks that was addressed by Reinsdorf, White Sox television analyst Steve Stone, Minnie Minoso and general manager Rick Hahn.

Stone knew Banks from the time he was a pitcher with the Cubs in 1974, and they continued that friendship during Stone's two decades as part of the Cubs' broadcast booth. He talked about Banks' 512 career homers and his obvious stature as a Hall of Famer to anyone who watched him play.

The true measure of Banks' impact, though, went well beyond baseball.

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"What everybody is going to remember about Ernie was the enthusiasm he brought to each and every day, the positive attitude that he always had and the lesson in life he taught anybody who cared to listen to him," Stone said. "That was, 'You don't have last season, you don't have last week, you don't have yesterday. You have to look ahead and see what tomorrow brings and tomorrow is going to be a great day.'

"Without articulating it like that, that's what Ernie possessed. He possessed an infectious enthusiasm that I think people won't forget. He is an icon in the city of Chicago, all over baseball and certainly for the Chicago Cubs, and baseball is a little bit poorer today because of the loss of Ernie Banks. He is a memorable character who stood out among his peers and was never daunted in his pursuit of thinking, 'You know, this is the year for the Cubs.'"

Minoso, who is the White Sox equivalent to Banks in terms of his baseball accomplishments, but moreso being beloved by many, admittedly had a tough time putting into words his feelings concerning his comrade.

"He was a great, great guy. And everybody loved him," said Minoso, who was at an appearance in New York two months ago with Banks. "The city belonged to him. Everywhere you move, they just [don't] talk about him like a ballplayer. They talk about him like a person. That's the more important thing."

"It's so rare in this game where you have someone who, No. 1 seems to make friends as easy as Ernie made them. Two, you never have anybody saying a bad word about him," Stone added. "I've known Ernie for a long time, since the mid '70s when I put on a Cubs uniform, and had a lot of interaction with him. But I've never heard anybody say, 'I don't like Ernie Banks.' It's like saying you don't like Santa Claus."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.