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Ernie Banks remembered fondly at SoxFest

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox's fan convention took on a decidedly somber tone Saturday after the death of Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks was announced late Friday evening.

There was no crosstown rivalry Saturday, as before each panel discussion tributes were made toward the Hall of Famer.

During a mid-morning panel discussion featuring members of the club's 2005 World Series championship team, radio broadcaster Ed Farmer offered his own tribute to Banks, whom he called a friend. The packed house followed with a round of applause.

"When you talk about Ernie, you have to smile," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "He was always in a great mood. I never heard him complain about anything. He was always upbeat. He always had a wisecrack. I know he was Mr. Cub, but he was really Mr. Baseball. He was really a great, great ambassador for the game."

White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone, who pitched three seasons for the Cubs in the 1970s and was a former Cubs broadcaster as well, also remembered Banks fondly.

"I've never heard anybody say, 'I don’t like Ernie Banks,'" Stone said. "It's like saying you don't like Santa Claus. How can you not like Ernie Banks? He was one of the most lovable human beings that our game has ever produced, and he never lost that child-like enthusiasm."

Banks' positive disposition eclipsed his production on the field, a monumental achievement considering that he hit 512 home runs and had a career .500 slugging percentage.

"I don't believe you're going to remember the home runs; I think he hit 512 of them," Stone said. "You're not going to remember the fact that he was a Hall of Famer because that was obvious to anybody who watched him play.

"I think 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 like he taught anybody who cared to listen to him, which 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."

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, who grew up in the northern suburbs, said Banks meant as much to baseball as he did to the Cubs.

"Growing up, I probably met him more as a kid and outside of baseball," Hahn said. "I spent a little time with him from time to time during Cubs-Sox series. He was just a tremendous ambassador for the game, for the city. His enthusiasm and his passion for baseball is going to be missed. It’s a big loss."

White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton offered his condolences.

"[He was a] Hall of Famer. You look at the statistics that he put up," Eaton said. "And as a person, it seemed like he was top notch. On and off the field, he did it the right way. It's a sad day for baseball, and definitely here in Chicago for South Siders and North Siders alike. He'll be missed for sure."