Catalina Island Museum Reflects on a Visit from "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks
Catalina Island Museum
Undoubtedly one of the most beloved players in Chicago Cubs history is Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks, or "Mr. Cub" as he was more commonly known. Over the weekend Cubs fans across the country, and here in Avalon, were saddened by the news of his passing.
"He visited the island for his 80th birthday," said lifelong islander and Cubs fan Lolo Saldana. "He was such a nice guy. He sat down in my chair here and talked baseball with me just like Jimmy Lefebvre and other ball players that have visited my shop over the years. I talked with him about what a great hitter he was. He seemed to really enjoy the island and said he was sad he didn’t get to play here. Before he left, he even showed me the proper way to hit!"
During that visit to Avalon in early 2011, Banks and his wife were invited by the staff of the Catalina Island Museum to preview a new exhibition entitled The Boys in Blue: Cubs Spring Training on Catalina Island 1921-1951. The two were among the very first to see the exhibition and the newly renovated museum space.
From the moment he stepped into the museum’s special exhibitions gallery, his passion for the Cubs – and all things baseball – was abundantly clear. He spent nearly an hour scrutinizing every photograph in the exhibition, all the while regaling the museum staff with anecdotes about various players and what a pleasure it was to play for the Wrigley family.
Though he retired from baseball in 1971, he was still very much involved with the Cubs organization. Visibly pleased with the exhibition, Banks exclaimed, "I wish that the current Cubs players could see this exhibition, they would appreciate the history of the team they play for. They would be better players if they understood the history of the club."
As Banks exited the museum, he promised to return to this magical island, which was full of history so close to his heart. One museum staff member swears, he excused himself by saying: “It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!"
“It was truly an honor to share our museum and especially a special exhibition about the Chicago Cubs spring training on the island with the legendary Ernie Banks,” said the museum’s Executive Director Dr. Michael De Marsche. “He was so closely related to the Cubs organization and passionate about sharing the history of the club. It was an important moment for our museum.”
The Catalina Island Museum is Avalon’s sole institution devoted to art, culture and history. The museum, its digital theater and store are located on the ground floor of Avalon’s historic Casino and are open 7 days a week, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website: CatalinaMuseum.org.