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‘Mr. Cub’ Ernie Banks dies at 83

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“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 Cubsteams, 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!” That finish to his famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field.

The Cubs paid tribute to Banks on the Wrigley marquee Friday night:

View image on Twitter

Although he played in 14 All-Star Games from 1953 to ’71, Banks never reached the postseason, and the Cubs finished below .500 in all but six of his seasons. Still, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible, and selected to baseball’s all-century team in 1999.

Banks’ infectious smile and nonstop good humor despite his team’s dismal record endeared him to Chicago fans, who voted him the best player in franchise history.

One famous admirer, “Saturday Night Live” star Bill Murray, named his son Homer Banks Murray. Former major league outfielder Dale Murphy, in a tweet Friday night, said: “Did a card show w Ernie Banks. He drove the promoter crazy! Spent time/talked with every person. After an hour had signed maybe 15.”

Banks’ No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and it hangs from the left-field foul pole at Wrigley Field.

“I’d like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers,” he once said. “That was what I always wanted to do.”

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