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Ernie Banks restores our faith in role models

Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame slugger died Jan. 23. | Associated Press

Our contemporary world desperately needs role models and mentors who don’t betray our trust, abuse their power or cheat. We need leaders with whom we can identify and from whom we can learn. Life ambushes of any kind always result from violating boundaries. People will respect, honor, and mourn Ernie Banks’s recent death, thereby restoring their belief in leaders of excellence.

Leon J. Hoffman, the Loop

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How I beat Ernie Banks in a $5 bet

In 1983, I was part owner of a family business. We banked at the Bank Of Ravenswood, where Ernie Banks was their public relations person, and the bank occasionally took us to lunch. Well, they surprised us once and brought Ernie Banks along to a lunch at Como Inn.

Ernie was his usual cheerful self. We naturally talked baseball and, being a Sox fan, I challenged him. Did he know how many intentional walks Roger Maris had received in 1961 when he hit 61 homers, breaking Babe Ruth’s record? Ernie guessed 15, but I told him it was zero. He said, “That’s impossible!” So we made a friendly bet of $5.

Ernie asked Como Inn’s Joe Marchetti to bring him a phone. Ernie called some stats guy, who told him that Maris got 90-plus walks that year but no intentional walks. Ernie cringed. I won the bet and we all had a big laugh! Ernie was so gracious as he handed me the $5 bill. But I felt like I cheated him because, as I explained to him, no pitcher ever walked Roger Maris to get to Mickey Mantle!

Driving back in our car, Ernie graciously commented that he had averaged 15 intentional walks a year, and that Mickey’s unparalleled switch-hitting ability was the key to Maris’s getting no intentional walks. Ernie Banks was a sweetheart of a man.

Robert Anichini, Wildwood