Monday, February 2, 2015

Cubs Trilogy: Ken Hubbs, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks

1964 Colton, California: Funeral of Ken Hubbs. Ernie Banks and Ron Santo (r) are among pallbearers.

2010 Chicago: Funeral of Ron Santo. Ernie Banks accompany's Ron's casket from church service.

2015 Chicago: Funeral of Ernie Banks

Last week, Cub fans lost Ernie Banks, who died just short of his 84th birthday. Obviously, he was not the first former Cub to pass. However, he was not just any former Cub. He was Mr. Cub, the most beloved Cub in the history of the franchise-not just for his baseball greatness, but for his qualities as a person.

His passing brings to mind two previous deaths that brought great sadness to Cub fans. In 2010, Ernie's teammate, Ron Santo, preceded him in death after years of poor health. He was 70. If Ernie was the most beloved Cub, Ron was clearly number 2. He had remained with the team as a radio broadcaster and was clearly pained by not seeing his team make it to the World Series. He never realized that dream. Also, he didn't live to see himself elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. That came after his death.

While Ernie passed after a full life and Ron could have lived several more years if it had not been for health issues (He suffered from juvenile diabetes even in his playing days and eventually had both legs amputated.) Both experienced the utter tragedy of the premature death of another one of their teammates. That was Ken Hubbs in 1964. Hubbs was an all around athletic star at Colton (Ca) High School who was National League Rookie of the Year in 1962 when he set a record for consecutive errorless games as a second baseman. He was destined for stardom, but died when a plane he was piloting crashed in Utah in 1964. He was 22 years old. They say the town of Colton has never recovered from the loss of Ken at such a young age. He was not only a great athlete, but universally respected as a person. Santo, who was a close friend of Hubbs, took his death especially hard.

Cub fans of my generation have been especially touched by the passing of these three great players and great individuals. They will always be part of the Cub lore. It's another reason I will always remain a Cub fan.

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