The greatest ambassador of Chicago Cubs baseball is in Washington today. If you happened to be at the White House today, you would have seen Ernie Banks there to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. You would have seen Oprah, too, but since this isn’t an Oprah blog, we’ll focus on the Ernie part. As you would expect, Mr. Cub was gracious in anticipation of receiving the award.
“It means everything to me,” Banks said in August about the award. “It means life is just wonderful. When you do things to try to help people and share things, it really comes back to you. I try to do that. I love the players, love Wrigley Field, love all the players. … This award means a lot to me. It’s almost like the Nobel Peace Prize to me.”
He’s part of an elite group of baseball players to have received the award.
Banks joins a distinguished list of baseball players to receive the honor, including Hank Aaron (2002), Roberto Clemente (2003) Joe DiMaggio (1977), Stan Musial (2011), Buck O’Neil (2006), Frank Robinson (2005), Jackie Robinson (1984) and Ted Williams (1991).
He must feel especially giddy to be in the same group as his idol, Jackie Robinson.
“Jackie Robinson was my idol and I really, really respected him. The first day I came to Wrigley Field, Jackie was there. The Dodgers already clinched the pennant so he came over to 3rd base and shook my hand and congratulated me on being in the major leagues and all of that and said to me, ‘Ernie, just listen and you’ll learn,’” said Banks.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a fitting tribute for the man who’s been the unflinchingly optimistic face of a down-in-the-dumps franchise for over 50 years.
As for today’s Cubs, we should expect to see some roster moves made today, as it’s the last day minor league players can be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. Carrie Muskat, take it away…
The Rule 5 Draft takes place Dec. 12, the last day of the Winter Meetings. Between Wednesday’s roster deadline and Dec. 12, teams will not be permitted to add players from the Minor League rosters to the Major League 40-man roster. Teams can add Major League free agents or players acquired in trade. The Cubs’ 40-man roster is currently at 37.
Who is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft? Players who signed at age 19 or older become Rule 5 eligible after four years. That means any players who signed out of college in the 2010 Draft are eligible. A player who signed his first pro contract at age 18 or younger has five years before becoming eligible. Players drafted out of high school in 2009 are in this pool.
If you’d like to read more about who might or might not be protected, check out this piece from John over at Cubs Den. He also mentions that the Cubs might have interest in the dreamy Grady Sizemore.