Anderson/Madison County Visitors Blog
I usually reserve this space to talk about local issues or events, especially those pertaining to tourism. But today I am not going to do that. Today I am going to get personal.
On January 23, Ernie Banks died. Banks, the iconic baseball hall of famer who spent his entire career with my beloved Chicago Cubs, was 83.
I never met him. I only vaguely remember him playing. But he was a huge part of the Chicago Cubs, and that made him a huge part of my family.
My dad always said he wanted to name me Ernie Banks Bannon but that my mom nixed the idea. When Ernie retired in 1972, my dad, knowing that Ernie would go into the hall of fame in 1977 in his first year on the ballot, started making plans for us to be in Cooperstown, New York for his induction. That trip to Cooperstown in the summer of 1977 is my all-time favorite family vacation. My dad, brother-in-law Fred, and I were at Wrigley Field in 1982 when Ernie’s number 14 became the first number retired by the Cubs. My wife, Jessica, and I were at Wrigley Field two summers ago when Ernie joined Pearl Jam on stage a little after midnight to lead the crowd in singing a Cubs song written by Pearl Jam front man—and big Cubs fan—Eddie Vedder.
Because the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908—or even been in a World Series since 1945—being a Cubs fan is a unique and deeply personal experience. Throughout my 49 years of life I have looked forward to celebrating with loved ones when the Cubs finally win it all. I have had many discussions about how we will react. Many of those conversations were with people who are no longer living and never got the chance to have the celebration. Each passing of a loved one who is also a die-hard Cubs fan brings about the extra sadness of knowing they won’t be in front of the television when—if—it finally happens. They won’t be one of the phone calls that are made. They won’t be one of the hugs that is given. My grandpa Bannon. My dad. Parents and family members of dear friends. Each passing leads the die-hard Cubs fan to wonder if they will end up on the list of the Cubs fans who never lived long enough to see it happen.
Ernie Banks wasn’t “officially” a part of my family. But I, and every other Cubs fan, wanted to see the Cubs win it in his lifetime. We wanted to see his joy. Ron Santo too. It wasn’t meant to be for them and the literally millions of Cubs fans who never experienced a World Series championship.
The Cubs are entering into an era of great promise. They should be greatly improved in 2015 and if everything goes just right, if their promising young players reach their potential, if they make the right trades and free agent signings, the streak of futility may finally end in the next five years or so. That’s a lot of “ifs,” but that is the life of a Cubs fan. Hoping for the best and believing this is the year, even though common sense usually dictates otherwise.
I’ve passed the infliction of being a Cubs fan on to my sons. Someday they will get to see the Cubs will win the World Series, right? I mean, eventually there has to be one season that finally goes their way. And if I am lucky enough to be alive when it happens, I will celebrate. I will also eventually find myself alone in a quiet room reflecting about those who aren’t with me that night. Naturally, my first thoughts will be of my dad and grandpa, but Ernie will be one of the people I think about that night too.
There has been a lot of discussion about Ernie since his passing. In addition to the many stories about his great on-field accomplishments, there was also a lot of discussion about his well-known personality, demeanor, and the way he treated everyone he met. He became legendary as much for the man he was as he did for the player he was. One of the things noted was that Ernie would say he imagined everyone he met had an invisible sign on them that said, “handle with care.” That’s a great philosophy we can all live by.
God speed, Mr. Cub. Thanks for being an unofficial member of my family. You will be missed.
News, notes, and thoughts--January and February tend to be the slowest months on the entertainment calendar in Madison County. That is not unexpected as we have just gotten through the holiday season and are still in the unpredictable winter months. But there are still fun things to do, including some great entertainment at Hoosier Park. VisitAndersonMadisonCounty.com is your source for the fun things to do in Madison County all year long…I enjoyed attending Dancing Like the Stars at the Paramount January 31. It was another big crowd. Fifteen brave souls danced with a professional partner in what has become the Paramount’s largest annual fundraiser…February 11 is the Visitors Bureau’s annual luncheon that will highlight some new things the Bureau is doing in 2015. Stay tuned!
--Tom Bannon is executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau