In a new segment here at Sports Card Magazine, Chuck Vanderbilt will showcase some of the greatest athletes that have called Texas their home. This website wants to focus on all aspects of the sports card world, but we take a lot of pride on where we’re from, and happy to have so much great talent come from this state.
This past weekend was the Tristar Collectors Show in Houston, Tx and there were a handful of great names in attendance- today we are going to set our sights on Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.
Most baseball fans and collectors know Ernie Banks simply as “Mr. Cub”. This is understandable considering he has been the face of the Chicago Cubs franchise for over 50 years. In 19 years with the Cubs, Banks earned MVP honors twice, made the All-Star team 14 times, hit 512 home runs, and was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Those fetes may be what got Ernie Banks into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first appearance on the ballot, but after meeting him at the Tristar Houston Collectors Show, I came away with the impression that Mr. Banks is even greater than his accomplishments in the game of baseball.
Ernie Banks grew up in Dallas, Texas and as a high school athlete he excelled at football, basketball, track, and even soccer. After graduating high school, Banks signed a contract with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues with the guidance of “Cool Papa” Bell and Buck O’Neil. Banks then made his way to the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and quickly became a Major League Baseball star. His energy and enthusiasm for the game of baseball was, and still is, tangible. Nothing encapsulates Banks’ fervor like his well-known adage, “Let’s play two!”
In my time as a collector, I have had the opportunity to meet several current and former professional baseball players. Many of the players have been cordial to the fans that paid money and waited in line for the chance to meet them and obtain an autograph. Unfortunately, others treat the experience as chore. As he did on the baseball field, this is another venue where Ernie Banks shines.
At the age of 81, Banks continues to display an enthusiasm that is unmatched and even contagious. As I waited in line for my chance to meet him, I watched Banks look his fans in the eye, smile, and speak to each and every one of them. Banks gave them that special moment they were looking for and fans walked away grinning from ear to ear. They walked away with more than an autograph, they also walked away uplifted. As the line moved forward, my excitement grew and it was clear that others around me were also feeding off his energy.
When my turn came, I walked up and simply thanked him for his time and the autograph. He responded, “My pleasure young man”, and I truly believe he meant it. I shook his hand, thanked him again, and walked away enlivened. From that moment, I haven’t stopped thinking about the experience. To meet greatness and be treated with respect is something that builds you up inside. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to meet Ernie Banks, and his infectious energy is something I’ll never forget.
Chuck Vanderbilt can be found on Twitter: @CollectinTex