By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (Jan. 24, 2015) — The Chicago Cubs have been a staple of the Cactus League since 1952, and no one was more synonymous with the organization’s identity than Ernie Banks, who passed away on Friday at age 83.
Mr. Cub was the perfect nickname for the team’s perfect ambassador.
And with his Cubs career starting in 1953, he was a fixture in the Windy City and the team’s spring training home, Mesa, Arizona.
During spring training visits to Cubs games on assignment over the years, I heard stories of those associated with the team praising Banks’ optimism and cheerful demeanor.
There was one occasion I do remember, perhaps in 2002 or 2003: Hall of Famer Billy Williams, who was working as a spring training instructor, telling reporters that Banks, his former Chicago teammate, made the game fun because of his sunny disposition. And there was a big smile on Williams’ face as he said this.