by Joseangel Ramos
On Jan. 23 the world of baseball and the Chicago Cubs organization lost a hall of famer, Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.
One of our Streetwise vendors, Robert Qualls, reflects on his memories of Banks and shares them with Streetwise.
“I first met Ernie in 1973 after a ball game and I met him through his kids actually,” Qualls said. “He was really friendly and he ended up driving me home and also gave me a ticket for the next home game.”
Qualls and Banks kept meeting up after games and Banks always invited Qualls to other games by offering him free tickets and Qualls was happy for it.
“I always wanted to go to the games and so it first started off by me going in after games and cleaning up after and if you did it, the stadium would give you a free ticket for the next home game,” Qualls explained. “Banks gave me a ticket and I felt that was the start to our friendship.”
Banks was known for being a nice guy but Manager Leo Durocher once said, “Ernie Banks was a nice guy who finished first.” Qualls can really understand what Durocher is saying.
“He was just a nice guy, it goes with how you were raised, I mean he was humble and he appreciated the opportunity to play ball,” Qualls said. “He just knew if he stayed humble then everything was going to be all right.”
Many people said Banks was a nice guy and Qualls experienced all that first hand. He talks about the different places Banks invited him.
“When I met him he was close to retiring so he took me to a lot of golf outings,
Bulls games, Bears games, and when he went to Truman College to get a business degree he let me drive him to the college,” Qualls said. “He was just so nice to me and I thank him for that.”
Mr. Cub was a busy man. Even when he was close to retirement he traveled to different cities and states to compete in every game so it wasn’t always easy to get together to hangout with Banks.
“He still did a good job of staying in touch with me and I always tried staying in touch with him,” Qualls said. “Also I never felt like I was bothering him when I did contact him because it felt like I was part of his family. He never denied me, he took me in like if I was his son.”
Whenever Banks was available, Quales always took the opportunity to get together because Banks treated him as a son. Quales grew up fatherless, with a single mother so he really cherished every moment he had shared with Banks.
“I was lucky enough to meet up with him and bump into him so I can tag along with him and his family,” Qualls said. “He always took the time to talk to me and get to know how I was doing.”
Banks was always well known for his great positive attitude but what stands out the most is when he said “It is a great day for a ball game, lets play two!”
“He was always so upbeat, he never let wins or loses get him down,” Qualls said. “I remember he once told me, only in America does it matter if you win or lose because other countries just play the sport to play it and enjoy it. He always told me to enjoy the sport.”
Banks, who joined the Cubs in ’53, who won two MVP awards in ’58 and ’59. He also had a total of 512 home runs, which puts him at 22nd all-time in the home runs list as of now. Even with these amazing statistics Banks couldn’t get the Cubs to the World Series. He was elected to the baseball hall of fame in ’77.
“He always told me you learn a lot from losing and so I guess he learned a lot because the Cubs didn’t win much,” Qualls said. “The Cubs are known as ‘the Loveable Losers’.”
Banks did lose a lot of games with the Cubs but to Quales saw him as a winner because of everything Banks did for him and the advice he gave to him.
“You can make it if you try, he always said,” Qualls said. “Ernie would always tell me I’ll see you tomorrow and we will see what tomorrow brings.”
Quales had so many memories but had trouble pinpointing one as his favorite.
After some thought, he landed on one. “Just knowing him was my best memory,” Qualls said. “He showed me a different way of life, it pays off to be nice.”