Friday night, the Chicago Cubs, which had been used to getting good news during the past few months, got a piece of devastatingly bad news: "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks, the greatest player in franchise history, died at the age of 83, per ESPN.com.
Undoubtedly, the team will honor Banks by wearing a commemorative patch this season, but the Cubs must honor him by more than just wearing his patch on their jerseys—they must honor him with their play on the field.
Banks, who made his debut on Sept. 17, 1953, was so many things to so many different people.
He was a beacon of light for many African-Americans in Chicago, as he was the first black player to ever wear the Cubs uniform. He was a source of optimism for a fanbase that sorely needed it. Most importantly, he was a lover of baseball, and because of that, fans couldn't help but love him.
You would think it would be viewed as a curse to be the best player in the history of a cursed franchise, but Banks never viewed it that way. He saw it as a blessing.
While he might have never played a single postseason game—despite playing in 2,528 in the regular season (most in big-league history without appearing in a playoff game)—he tried to will the Cubs to the promised land every season.
It never quite happened for him, and it still hasn't happened for the Cubs, who will be entering their 44th season without Banks in the starting lineup this spring. While it's a shame Banks won't be around to see the Cubs ever win a World Series, this team needs to seal the deal in honor of its late legend.
That's not to say the Cubs need to win the World Series this year—that's pretty lofty expectations for such a young team—but in the next three to four years, they should definitely be challenging for titles.
None of the young players coming up through the system saw Mr. Cub play, but they likely know what he means to the organization. They need to bring the toughness Banks did day in and day out. They need to have the perseverance he had, knowing the team needed to earn every little thing.
Most importantly, they need to love baseball—because with their talent, the rest will fall into place.
Ernie Banks never saw the Cubs win a World Series, but one thing is sure: If the Cubs are on the brink of a World Series title anytime soon, Banks will be smiling down among the baseball gods.
He won't be saying his patented "let's play two," but rather, he will simply be saying, "let's just win one."