* Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams joined Ernie Banks’ sons, Jerry and Joey, as they threw out ceremonial first pitches prior to Sunday’s Cubs game against the Cardinals. Ernie Banks died in late January at the age of 83, and the Cubs showed a montage of some of Mr. Cubs’ career on the new video board.
The Cubs also honored Banks with oversized black and white photos from his career that were stretched over the left and right field bleachers, which are currently under construction. All fans attending Sunday’s game were given No. 14 pins in honor of Banks.
* Jon Lester has maintained that he doesn’t need a personal catcher, but manager Joe Maddon matched up the left-hander with David Ross on Sunday. Lester has a 2.77 ERA when Ross is behind the plate.
“I wanted Jon to go out there more comfortably,” Maddon said.
Miguel Montero, projected as the Cubs starting catcher, is 5-for-17 lifetime against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright.
“For right now, based on what I saw all camp, regardless of what Jon has said, I think it’s a better way to go on Opening Night right now to have Rossy catch him,” Maddon said.
* Matt Szczur was called into Maddon’s office last Wednesday. Szczur knew the team was making roster moves and wasn’t sure where he fit.
“[Maddon] said, ‘I hate to give this news to a Villanova guy, but you made the team,'” Szczur said Sunday, sitting in the dugout at Wrigley Field, on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster for the first time in his young career.
“It was great, and a really great feeling,” Szczur said. “They told me I earned it, which was an even better feeling. I worked hard this offseason to fine tune it.”
Szczur and Maddon had a friendly wager this spring because their respective schools, Villanova and Lafayette, faced off in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Villanova crushed Maddon’s school, and the manager had to wear a Wildcats sweatshirt plus get a bottle of wine for Szczur.
“The skip’s a good sport,” Szczur said of Maddon. “He’s trying to get me a Lafayette sweater. I’m waiting for it.”
Szczur was able to get his family to Wrigley Field in time for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.
* Sunday was Maddon’s first time in the cramped interview room at Wrigley Field.
“I can get claustrophobic in here,” he said.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs will honor Hall of Famer Ernie Banks in pregame ceremonies Sunday before the first regular season
when they play host to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
Banks’ two sons, Joey and Jerry, will throw out ceremonial first pitches and lead the crowd in the seventh-inning stretch.
The Cubs are wearing commemorative No. 14 patches on both the home and away jerseys this season, and the bases used on Opening Night will be adorned with Ernie Banks tribute base jewels.
Each fan attending Opening Night will receive a commemorative No. 14 pin. Banks passed away in January at the age of 83.
The Cubs will wear No. 14 caps for their Spring Training opener on March 5 and a commemorative patch on their home and road uniforms all season to honor Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who passed away in January. The caps and patch are part of a season-long tribute to Banks, who died one week shy of his 84th birthday.
Banks will be honored in a pregame ceremony before the Cubs’ regular season opener against the Cardinals April 5 at Wrigley Field. Each fan attending that game will receive a commemorative pin in honor of Banks.
The team said additional tributes will be finalized and incorporated throughout the 2015 season.
“There is no level of recognition that can properly acknowledge how much Ernie Banks meant to this franchise and fan base,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “Collectively, we must ensure Mr. Cub’s legacy rightfully lives on at the Friendly Confines and with future generations of baseball fans.”
Cubs radio broadcaster Pat Hughes was among the hundreds who attended Ernie Banks memorial service on Saturday at Fourth Presbyterian Church.
“He just had an amazing outlook on life,” Hughes said of Banks, who would’ve celebrated his 84th birthday Saturday. “I think he woke up every day trying to make new friends. ‘I’m going to meet as many new friends as I can, I’m going to make as many people happy as I possibly can. He was a rare person.'”
What will it be like at Wrigley Field without Mr. Cub?
“I’ll miss him,” Hughes said. “I’ll miss him on Opening Day, I’ll miss him when the Cubs are in a pennant race. I’ll miss him a lot.”
Any favorite memories?
“We were at a party one time, there’s 100 people there,” Hughes said. “I’m with my daughters. Ernie tells all the kids, ‘The best thing you can do when you get back to the hotel, rub your daddy’s feet.’ He told every kid there. My daughters come back giggling to me, ‘Daddy, Ernie Banks said we should rub your feet.’ Everyone in the whole room is laughing about Ernie. He brought everyone together. It was a funny, off the wall, quirky thing to do, but it spread joy and that’s what Ernie loved to do.”
And he will be missed.
“He was Mr. Cub,” Hughes said. “Whoever came up with that phrase was a genius. He was Mr. Cub, the greatest ballplayer statistically. He was kind of like the heart of the Chicago Cubs. He’ll be missed forever.”
— Carrie Muskat
Instead of mourning Ernie Banks on Saturday, his teammates, family and friends urged everyone to celebrate the life of Mr. Cub on what would’ve been his 84th birthday.
“We have come here to thank God for Ernie Banks,” Rev. Shannon Kershner said in her welcome statements.
The Fourth Presbyterian Church was nearly full for Banks’ memorial service on Saturday, and the crowd included former Cubs teammates Billy Williams, Randy Hundley, Fergie Jenkins, and George Altman, plus Hall of Famers such as Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Lou Brock and Andre Dawson. Also in the crowd were Kerry Wood, Anthony Rizzo, Sean Marshall, Jon Lieber, Minnie Minoso and Scott Sanderson.
Cubs broadcasters Len Kasper, Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer attended, as well as former Chicago Bulls great Bob Love, Blackhawks executives John McDonough and Jay Blunk, White Sox general manager Ken Williams, and former Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were there, as well as Joe Torre, who represented Major League Baseball.
Banks’ twin sons, Joey and Jerry, each delivered personal tributes. Joey thanked his dad for letting them come to Wrigley Field, calling it “the best playground ever.”
“Move over Honus Wagner, there’s a new shortstop in heaven,” Joey Banks said.
Jerry wished his father happy birthday, and said the Wrigley family’s decision to purchase Banks’ contract from the Kansas City Monarchs was “the best $10,000 ever spent.”
“Who would’ve imagined you would become the icon of the great city of Chicago, representing not only Chicago but giving the fans love and devotion,” Jerry Banks said. “We’ve heard countless stories of interactions with fans. It makes our mourning his passing easier. For every tear we shed comes ten stories of laughter followed by, ‘That sounds like dad.'”
Jerry then shared three of his father’s favorite sayings to his children:
* “You learn more from losing than winning.”
* “I feel like Tony the Tiger. I feel great.”
* “How do you feel? I feel like I can fly.”
Following the nearly two-hour memorial service, a motorcade carrying the casket passed Banks’ statue in Daley Plaza and then headed north to Wrigley Field. The procession paused outside the ballpark’s marquee at Clark and Addison streets and fans applauded. The crews doing the renovation work at the 100-year-old ballpark also lined the streets to salute Banks one more time.
“He just had an amazing outlook on life,” radio broadcaster Pat Hughes said. “I think he woke up every day trying to make new friends. ‘I’m going to meet as many new friends as I can, I’m going to make as many people happy as I possibly can. he was a rare person.'”
Billy Williams paid homage to Banks by delivering a message for this year’s team.
“I know Ernie would put his stamp of approval on this — ‘The Cubs will win as a team in 2015,'” Williams said.
— Carrie Muskat
Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Lou Brock, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be among the speakers Saturday at the funeral service for Cubs legend Ernie Banks.
Saturday’s memorial service at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 East Chestnut Street in downtown Chicago, will begin at 10 a.m. CT and will include remembrances, readings and tributes. The list also includes Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts,
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., will take part with a personal tribute, as well as John Rogers, a close friend of Banks. Banks’ twin sons, Jerry and Joey, also will have personal tributes.
Former manager Joe Torre, now chief baseball officer with Major League Baseball, will represent MLB.
Following the memorial service, the procession will embark on a route that will pass Banks’ statue in Daley Plaza and Wrigley Field. Because of the renovation work at Wrigley Field, fans who want to gather at the ballpark are asked to view the procession from the following locations: the southwest corner of Sheffield Avenue and Addison Street in front of the Captain Morgan Club; along the south side of Addison Street between Sheffield Avenue and Clark Street; or along the west side of Clark Street between Addison Street and Waveland Avenue.
At the end of Saturday’s service, the procession will leave the church and drive south on Michigan Avenue, west on Randolph Street, south on Clark Street and east on Washington Street, where it will pass the bronze statue in Daley Plaza.
The procession will then head to Lake Shore Drive and take the Belmont Avenue exit. The procession will head west on Belmont Avenue, northwest on Clark Street, north on Sheffield Avenue and west on Addison Street to Clark Street, where it will pass the Wrigley Field marquee.
Banks passed away last Friday; he would’ve celebrated his 84th birthday this Saturday. On Wednesday, Emanuel and Banks’ wife Liz placed a wreath at the base of the bronze statue of Mr. Cub, which has been relocated to Daley Plaza for a public memorial.
There will be limited public seating available for Saturday’s memorial service. Comcast SportsNet Chicago and WGN Radio will both broadcast the service live.
* Public visitation will be Friday from 12-8 p.m. CT at Fourth Presbyterian Church.
— Carrie Muskat