Ernie Banks

erniebanksbaseballrookiecardThis is basically a response to Joe Posnanski’s post from yesterday. Over the past few months he’s slowly been leaking his “Top 100 Ballplayers of All-Time” list – which I highly recommend if you haven’t been following along. He’s been counting down from 100; he’s now at 55. So check in now, because the best is yet to come.

Number 55 on his list is Ernie Banks.

Mr. Cub.

Mr. Sunshine.

Everybody loved Ernie Banks because he was pretty much impossible to dislike. He was constantly smiling and played with a joy that goes unmatched to this day. He is most well known for his catchphrase “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame…let’s play two!”

Here’s a section from Joe’s post:

And he expressed that joy for baseball in everything he did — in the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he played every single game, the way he made it feel like he was exactly where he wanted to be — no place on earth would be better.

“Maybe it’s sacrilege but I believe Banks was a con artist,” John Roseboro said. “No one smiles all the time, naturally, unless they’re putting you on and putting you on. Every day of our lives isn’t a good one.”

Only it was for Ernie Banks. Every day was a good day.

Two main comments I want to make about this and then I’ll be done with this blog for the day.

First, I want to touch on the tension that Roseboro mentions in that quote. I struggle with this regularly being on staff at a church and working with students. There are some days when I just don’t really feel very chipper. Especially in January* when getting out of bed sometimes feels like the most difficult part of my day.

* – Aren’t we all thankful that today is the last day of this retched month? Although, we’re supposed to get some seriously miserable weather tomorrow and into next week too. Woof. Six days until Spring Training…

To quote Mary J. Blige: “It ain’t all roses.”

Or to quote Kid President, “Some days you’ll get ice cream, and some days you won’t.”

And sometimes, if I’m honest, I have to put on a face and act more excited to take on the day than I truly am. I adopt a facade and smile and converse as if life is wonderful when it’s not. I think we all do that sometimes.

However, I also think something amazing happens when we fake it: we start to believe it ourselves.

Is our quality of life directly correlated to our attitude toward life?

One of the principles I believe in strongly – and I’m certain Ernie Banks did as well – is that if your attitude stinks, you’re going to have a terrible experience, but if you maintain a positive attitude, you’re going to have a positive experience. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy almost.

Granted there are times when this isn’t the case. Posnanski goes on to tell a story from Buck O’Neill of a doubleheader Banks played in 1962 when the Cubs were playing the Astros in the extreme August humidity of Houston. Miserable weather aside, Mr. Sunshine approached the game the same way he always did: overly positive and joyful.

He struck out three times in the first game.

And then he fainted before the second game.

And then he recovered enough to pinch hit in the ninth inning with the scored tied 5-5. Don McMahon struck him out.

“Beautiful day, Ernie?” Buck asked him in the clubhouse after the doubleheader and he had this mischievous smile on his face. Banks was crumpled by his locker and he was so exhausted and drained by the heat that he could barely look up. But then he too smiled.

“They’re all beautiful days, Buck,” he said. “Just that some days are more beautiful than others.”

Sometimes life hands you lemons, and sometimes life hands you grenades. Or, to toss in an overly utilized baseball cliche, sometimes life throws you a curveball.* I love Ernie’s response to Buck. Some days are just more beautiful than others, but I admire his consistent attitude. Even on the worst days, Banks still brought his same positive outlook on life.

* – It’s amazing how often baseball cliches get utilized in our American society. Which is worse: baseball cliches, or Christian cliches?

Okay that’s the first thing I want to say. Here’s the second:

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are living and those who are perishing.” [2 Corinthians 2:15]

That’s my favorite verse. And I think Ernie’s approach to baseball speaks to it greatly. Everyone loved Ernie Banks – even those who hated the Cubs, couldn’t hate Ernie Banks. He was just too likable.

He had an the aroma of joy that permeated out into everything he did – “the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he approached every single game” – his presence of joy was always there. His smile was his trademark.

What if we approached life as Christians the same way Ernie Banks approached baseball?

Is our faith, hope and love permeating into the world around us? Are we living life with an attitude that positively influences everyone we meet?

Just some thoughts on Ernie Banks. Who knows? Maybe stuff like this will find its way into my book


UPDATE: Turns out I wrote this on Ernie Banks’ birthday. Didn’t even know.

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