MAGNIFICENT MILE — Chicagoans of all stripes came to Fourth Presbyterian Church on Friday to say goodbye to Ernie Banks, the greatest player in Cubs history.
Though somber, Banks' visitation still was peppered with some jovial moments thanks to TV screens playing highlights of "Mr. Cub," including replays of his 500th home run and candid clips from his storied career. Classic songs from Frank Sinatra and other crooners from Banks' mid-century heyday accompanied the images.
A Baseball Hall of Famer who played his entire 19-year career with the North Siders, Banks died last Friday after suffering a heart attack. He was 83 years old.
"Ernie Banks was a great player and a great guy," said Terry Coxworth, a self-identified White Sox fan from Lakeview, who attended the visitation at the church at 126 E. Chestnut St. "He was always signing autographs."
Banks' coffin was closed and draped with a large flag displaying his jersey number, 14, which the Cubs retired in 1982. Chicago Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts was among those in attendance Friday. Banks' widow, Liz, left Fourth Presbyterian before the visitation opened to the public, church staff said.
Hank Schneider grew up in suburban Arlington Heights, and Banks was his favorite player. Like many Cubs fans of a certain age, Schneider said he tried to emulate Banks' peculiar straight-up batting stance.
"He was my hero," Schneider said as he left the church. "I met him a couple times. He was as nice as everyone said he was."
The visitation will last until 8 p.m. Friday. Banks' funeral begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fourth Presbyterian.
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