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Ernie Banks died from heart attack; statue to be in Daley Plaza

Family attorney Mark Bogen talks while Liz Banks, wife of baseball legend Ernie Banks stands behind him. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks died Friday night from a heart attack, his wife and attorney announced Sunday afternoon.

“Ernie passed away on Friday evening, January 23, after suffering from a heart attack. It was seven days before his 84th birthday,” Mark Bogen, Banks’ attorney, said at a noon news conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago alongside Banks’ wife, Liz. Funeral arrangements for Banks have not yet been finalized.

The Ernie Banks statue usually on display outside Wrigley Field will be placed in Daley Plaza from Wednesday through Saturday for fans to see and honor the Hall of Famer, the Chicago Cubs and the city of Chicago announced Sunday.

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“I want you to know he was very beloved, and he is going to be dearly missed by family, friends and all of his fans,” Liz Banks said.

Bogen highlighted Banks’ work off the baseball diamond.

“People have called Ernie Banks the ambassador of baseball, but in reality he was an ambassador for humanity,” he said.

Banks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, Bogen said.

“He loved people and wanted to hear their stories of their lives, not talk about his . . . Instead of talking about baseball, he would talk about life.”

Family members of Liz Banks, wife of baseball legend Ernie Banks, listen to family attorney Mark Bogen make a brief statement on Banks’ death. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Banks was a chaplain who officiated the wedding of former Cub and current Reds pitcher Sean Marshall (the ceremony, which was full of laughs, can be seen on YouTube).

“He stood up for gay rights and asked the Cubs to have a float in the Gay Pride parade,” Bogen said. The Cubs agreed. And Banks had a spot on the float, Bogen said.

Banks tried his hand at acting and appeared in the TV show “Married with Children” in 1993, as well as other shows, Bogen said.

Banks received the Presidential Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest civilian award, Bogen said.

The former shortstop also participated in United Service Organizations programs around the world to support American troops and was active in supporting Special Olympics, said Bogen, who quoted one of Banks’ favorite sayings:

Life is a song, sing it

Life is a game, play it

Life is a challenge, meet it

Life is a dream, realize it

Life is a sacrifice, offer it

Life is love, enjoy it now

A Facebook page has been set up to allow fans to share thoughts and memories of the man known as Mr. Cub, said Bogen, who added that the Banks family is thankful for support from the Cubs, the Ricketts family, who own the Cubs, and fans.

Family attorney Mark Bogen talks while Liz Banks, wife of baseball legend Ernie Banks stands behind him. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times