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Ernie Banks epitomized American optimism
Ernie Banks epitomized American optimism

While Joe DiMaggio was Mr. Coffee, Ernie Banks was Mr. Cub. Banks didn't marry sex goddesses, he betrothed an entire city, one that was frequently sooty and snowy on opening day. Every April, he was the warm sunshine until the real sun came out. Banks, who died Friday at 83, was my first hero and probably my last. The Chicago Cubs' Hall of Fame infielder would have been a mythic figure in baseball if he weren't so warm and accessible. When he passed, so did some of the game's class and dignity and one of baseball's relentlessly good sports. Banks will always be a touchstone to the childhoods of any Baby Boomer who, like me, grew up rooting for toxic Chicago...

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