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Levine: Banks Much More Than A Great Ballplayer

By Bruce Levine--

(CBS) -- Ernie Banks' passing leaves an emotional gap for millions of baseball fans he impacted over the past 62 seasons. It's difficult to imagine a single person entering Wrigley Field on a sunny day without envisioning Mr. Cub saying "It's a beautiful day, so lets' play two."

Banks was much more than one of the all-time great ball players. His constant smile and friendly greetings would always put the most nervous fan or unsure kid at ease, after initially meeting the Dallas, Texas native.

"I love the game of baseball and owe a lot of my great life to it, but I find so many things in the world more interesting than my career," Ernie related to me in the summer of 2013. "I find people so diverse and interesting--that is the real treasure in life understanding and knowing people."

Ernie rarely opened up to a reporter or an over-zealous person who wanted to know him and what made him tick instantly. Ernie would cut off a person's nervous first words with his own interview. "How is your family? How is your husband or wife?" he would say to a person on introduction. Usually an awkward response by the shocked individual was followed up with another question or statement by this interesting man. Banks died eight days short of his 84th birthday Friday evening.

Banks' baseball records stand tall as testament to his greatness. Much less obvious was his desire to get the most out of every minute he was on the planet. Ernie never realized his dream of winning a World Series with the Cubs or seeing his team win one for that matter. Regardless, his real success was making other people feel they were just as important as the presidents, world leaders and business tycoons that called Mr. Cub a valued friend.

Ernie had his share of sadness and family dysfunction, just as most of us do. He was never detoured in his quest to find more meaning and love in his life, despite past failures.

He knew he had a responsibility to perpetuate the Ernie Banks baseball superstar image. I don't think he had much patience for that being the lasting image of his being.
Few people have the gift of making people happy on first contact. Ernie Banks did! That gift and his zest for life will be sorely missed by the hundreds who knew him and the thousands he impacted on a positive level.

The quality of an individual's life is said mostly to be based on the positive effect they have had on others. Ernie stands alone in this, his personal hall of fame of understanding the human condition and rejoicing in it.


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