Legendary Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks passed away last month. The Cubs, Ernie Banks, Hank Sauer, Ron Santo and others played a big part in my young life. I would often sit next to a floor model radio we had in our apartment behind my dad’s Chicago dry cleaning store and listen to the games.
But, when I heard about Banks’ passing, I thought of my mother.
In particular, I thought of one day at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubbies. I would have been six or seven years old. My dad took us there occasionally and it usually was cold and rainy – thank you Lake Michigan – but this day was sunny and warm.
We were sitting on the third base side of the field, a little lower than usual. My dad had gotten good seats and we were having a great time. Dad went to get hot dogs and drinks, leaving my mom and I to watch the game.
Ernie Banks came up to bat. A couple of rows up from us, just to my mom’s left, there were two men. They began yelling, deriding Banks with the n-word and various racial insults current in 1950s.
To my surprise, my mom stood up, all 4-foot-11-inches of her, and began yelling at the men, telling them to shut up and not to call Banks bad names. They shut up. She sat back down. I was very proud of her.