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For Cubs fans, Ernie Banks was always ‘just a part of Chicago’

Just outside of Wrigley Field, Rob Harris stood quietly Saturday over a memorial of flowers, Old Style cans and Cubs memorabilia left there in honor of Ernie Banks, the beloved Mr. Cub who died Friday at 83.

Then, Harris added a baseball to the pile of carefully selected items. Written on the ball: “Someday we’ll go all the way.”

“You can’t be a Cubs fan and not admire Ernie Banks,” said Harris, 46, of West Rogers Park.

He was among dozens of diehard fans who stopped by Wrigley Field to pay their respects to the Cubs legend.

Fans commemorate the passing of Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Fans commemorate the passing of Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Eva Eisenberg — who wore the team’s blue, red and white on everything from her jacket to her earrings — clutched a baseball that Banks had signed and a framed autograph and said she’d daydreamed Banks had spoken to her from his final resting place.

“He came from heaven and whispered into my ear, ‘I am taking them to the World Series this year,’ ” the 59-year-old North Sider said.

Eisenberg and others remembered Banks’ trademark rallying cry, “Let’s play two!”

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And they spoke of his legacy as the first black player for the Cubs,  his role as the team’s unofficial ambassador and his genial disposition. It seemed most had a story or two of meeting the great player, who always made time for fans.

“He always said it doesn’t cost nothing to be nice,”  Cubs superfan Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers, 73, said of Banks. “He was just a part of Chicago.”

"'Let's play two' not without you." | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

“‘Let’s play two’ not without you.” | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

For many, Banks was a connection to their childhood.

“He brought such a thrill into my life when I was just a boy,” said Jerry Koehler of Naperville, who made the trip to Wrigley with his son, Steve. “His legend has just lived on.”

Koehler, 73, said Banks “was a part of the family our whole life.

“He will be dearly missed.”

Fans commemorate the passing of Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Fans commemorate the passing of Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Luis Medina places flowers at the a growing memorial to Ernie Banks as fans commemorate his passing outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Luis Medina places flowers at the a growing memorial to Ernie Banks as fans commemorate his passing outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Kevin Huigens places flowers at the a growing memorial to Ernie Banks as fans commemorate his passing outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Kevin Huigens places flowers at the a growing memorial to Ernie Banks as fans commemorate his passing outside Wrigley Field. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Fans left flowers, candles and a hat in front of Wrigley Field. | AP Photo

Fans left flowers, candles and a hat in front of Wrigley Field. | AP Photo

Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers lays a doll outside Wrigley Field in remembrance of Ernie Banks. | AP Photo

Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers lays a doll outside Wrigley Field in remembrance of Ernie Banks. | AP Photo

Flowers hang on the construction fence in front of Wrigley Field. | AP Photo

Flowers hang on the construction fence in front of Wrigley Field. | AP Photo

Fans left tributes to Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field on Saturday. | AP Photo

Fans left tributes to Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field on Saturday. | AP Photo