Ernie Banks, 'Mr. Cub,' dies at age 83 from heart attack

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Saturday, January 24, 2015
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Chicago Cubs legend Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks died in Chicago Friday evening at the age of 83.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Cubs legend Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks died in Chicago Friday evening at the age of 83.

PHOTOS: Ernie 'Mr. Cub' Banks, 1931-2015

At a news conference Sunday, Banks' family attorney said Banks died as a result of a heart attack.

The shortstop and first baseman hit more than 500 home runs and played his entire 19-season career with the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971. The Cubs' marquee outside Wrigley Field posted a message Friday night to memorialize Banks.

VIDEO: Cubs Historian Ed Hartig talks about Ernie Banks' legacy

Banks was the first African American to play for the Cubs and he joined the team in an era when racism was rampant. He often was not allowed to stay at some of the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants as his teammates.

"To be an African American, to be the only one on the team. Granted, times have changed, but the social aspect, for him to have done as well as he did, facing those types of odds. And for the city to embraced him, he helped pave the way for Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins, and the players like that," said Cubs historian Ed Hartig.

Longtime Cubs and White Sox fans alike have expressed their respect for Banks.

"He was a great guy," said David Garrigues, a White Sox fan. "It was kind of sad, I picked up the paper this morning and I couldn't believe it. A week from today he would have been 84. He was a legend and a great man."

"He would talk to anybody, stop, take the time and sign autographs," said Joe Kolb, a Cubs fan. "He loved the fans, he loved this city, he loved this ballpark - and what he did for the people of Chicago, the baseball organizations, will never be forgotten."

Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and is considered one of the greatest players of all time. In 2008, he became the first player in franchise history to be honored with a statue at Wrigley Field.

In November 2013, Banks was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. At the time, Banks called it his greatest accomplishment.

"How important it is to people lives, to spread joy to people's lives, that's the most important thing I got out of this today," Banks told ABC7's Cheryl Burton, in 2013.

"He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV," President Obama said in a statement. "And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class - 'Mr. Cub' - is ready to play two."

On Friday night, the Chicago Cubs called Banks "the greatest Cub in franchise history." In a written statement, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said, "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."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also commented on Banks' passing, writing: "Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago's greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved -- and lived for -- the game of baseball. This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No.14 will be watching over his team. And if we're lucky, it'll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two."

"Ernie Banks was a trail blazer who helped break down barriers, a veteran who served his country with honor, a respected community leader and the greatest Chicago Cub of all time," said Gov. Bruce Rauner in a statement.

Banks' family attorney said the family is working with the City of Chicago on a public memorial.