Despite his years with also-ran Cubs teams, Ernie Banks became famous for his infectiously positive attitude toward baseball and life. It was typified by the slogan "Let's play two" that has been associated with him since July 1969. "It was about 105 degrees in Chicago," Banks told the Houston Chrinicle's Richard Dean. "And that's a time when everybody gets tired. I came into the clubhouse and everybody was sitting around and I said, 'Beautiful day. Let's play two.' And everybody looked at me like I was crazy. There were a couple of writers around and they wrote that and it stayed with me." Banks parlayed his optimism into a part-time profession after he retired as a player, giving motivational talks at companies around the country.
In 1970, a year before Banks hung up his spikes, he entered two elite baseball clubs on the same day. On May 12 at Chicago's Wrigley Field he hit his 500th home run; it also happened to be his 1600th run batted in. After his retirement, he coached with the Cubs and worked with their minor league hitters. He worked in insurance and banking for much of the 1980s and 1990s. Banks was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the first year of his eligibility, an indicator not only of his formidable statistical legacy but also of his enduring popularity with the media and the public.
Although he hasn't set foot in a major league batter's box in more than 30 years, "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks continues to be among the most beloved sports celebrities in the country. His popularity has but little to do with the fact is among the all-time leaders in with 2,528 games, 9,421 atbats, 4,706 total bases, 1,009 extra-base hits and 512 home runs. It rests instead with the heartfelt smile that never seems to leave his face and his openness to friend and stranger alike. His Hall of Fame status seems to extend into the realm of living itself. Banks summed up his philosophy for Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: "My theme is, 'The spirit of friendship is the balance of life.' Not money. Not the World Series. It's friendship. The relationships I have with people, that's enough to keep me happy."
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