Ernie Banks left lasting memories for teammate Williams
CHICAGO (AP) After paying his respects to Ernie Banks on Friday, Billy Williams thought about all the good times they had together.
Hall of Fame players for the Chicago Cubs and friends for decades, there were plenty of recollections. Williams mentioned the "joy" and "lasting memories" his pal left.
No player on the North Side was as beloved as "Mr. Cub," and Banks' death last Friday sparked an outpouring of grief in the city and in the baseball world.
Banks hit 512 home runs and won two NL MVP awards. But he's remembered as much for his boundless enthusiasm despite playing on mostly losing teams and his desire to connect with everyone he met.
Fans have been placing flowers outside Wrigley Field and stopping in Daley Plaza to take photos of his statue, which normally stands outside the ballpark. The city and the Cubs took the unprecedented step of taking the statue out of storage where it been kept while the ballpark is renovated and putting it on public display away from its usual home.
On Friday, dignitaries and fans, some pausing to snap a picture, streamed past his casket draped with a giant "Banks 14" jersey and a large photo of him in a Cubs cap smiling right behind it.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, on what would have been his 84th birthday. After that, he will take one final trip to Wrigley. The procession will go by the statue before heading north past the ballpark's famed marquee at the corner of Clark and Addison.
Williams recalled babysitting Banks' children and thanked them for "lending me your father that many years." He said he tried to call Banks a few days before he died but was unable to reach him. When he got the news, it hit hard.
"It was hard to believe at that time," Williams said. "I went to sleep. And then when I woke up that morning, I said, 'This is a dream. This is a dream.' This individual, he made a lot of people happy. He was always joyous, and to wind up with a heart attack, it was really something.
"When I got the word, I was upstairs. I remember putting the phone on the bed and just putting my head on the bed and just thinking about the times we had through the years."