“Let’s play two…”

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS February 2, 2015 #526 Up next…”Let’s play two…”

After further review…With the football season now behind us and basketball and hockey in full swing, we turn our attention toward Major League Baseball as players head to spring training. Surely, every one of them anticipates a successful season enough to embellish the memory of Ernie Banks. Banks, who died recently at age 83, was the epitome of enthusiasm.

“It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two,” his signature phrase, expressed Banks’ love of playing the game of baseball. Have we lost that in the professional game of baseball today? Surely our high school and college players – as well as those who love and play softball – would play two (or more!) whenever they get the chance. Banks would be proud of the legacy he created, but his was not an easy road. He got his start with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, and when he joined the Chicago Cubs in 1953, endured the same “You’re not welcome here!” refrain that met Jackie Robinson when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Ernie’s “…let’s play two” was regularly followed with “…but not without you”. Ernie’s love of his fellow man and his T*E*A*M approach lifted the Cubs throughout the nearly two decades he played for them. The free agency that Curt Flood helped establish came years later, but even if it had existed, “Mr. Cub” never wanted to be anywhere except Chicago.

It’s startling to consider that a first-ballot inductee into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1977 (512 home runs, .274 batting average and 2,583 hits) never played in a post-season, never had a sniff of the World Series. But Banks stood for everything right in the game, and I have always admired his character. It was my honor as an NFL official during the 1960’s to work on that same Wrigley Field (at Addison & Clark) where he played. Then, on September 15, 1968, I was privileged to referee the 100th NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears (Packers 28, Bears 27) at Wrigley. Wonderful memories there.

Many of today’s MLB players have the same love for this game that Mr. Cub had. The baseball fans of today need to see and hear more about those who follow the Banks Creed.

Will you look to Ernie Banks’ legacy as a path for what you do?

To contact Jim go to www.jimtunney.com or email jim@jimtunney.com.

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