Chicago Cubs infielder and Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks passed away on Friday (Jan. 23) at 83. Known for his lighthearted and optimistic personality, his record-breaking athletic skills and his celebrated career, Banks was one of the greats in his generation. Making history as the first Black player on the Cubs, the icon went on to become a member of 11 National League All-Star Teams, was voted the "Greatest Cub Ever," and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Speaking on Banks's broad impact on American culture, President Obama released a statement on his and the first lady's behalf, commemorating the life of a hometown hero.
"Michelle and I send our condolences to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him," he wrote.
"Ernie came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day. He became the first African-American to play for the Chicago Cubs, and the first number the team retired. Along the way, he became known as much for his 512 home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs as for his cheer, his optimism, and his love of the game," Obama continued.
"As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class — 'Mr. Cub' — is ready to play two."
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)