Hero treated shamefully
In 1964 Ernie Banks was building a house in Park Ridge, a white Chicago suburb. Other Cubs, including future Hall-of-Famer Ron Santo, lived there. But this was Ernie – not a Cub, the Cub.
I would bicycle two miles round-trip past his building site when my destination was two blocks. Only a 15-year-old can get this excited when potentially confronting his sports hero.
My 15-year-old self even concocted a multi-act play. Ernie and I meet. We become friends. Eventually I sit with Ernie on the Cubs bench as the unofficial good-luck symbol on their march to the World Series.
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Then I told my aunt about these upcoming wondrous events. The facts of life crashed into my reality. My aunt was not a prejudiced person, but she was someone who knew how things worked: “Tom, Negroes do not live in Park Ridge.”
I denied that statement with all my might. My aunt was wrong. She just failed to understand about whom we were speaking. This was Ernie Banks. Stupid nonsensical rules didn’t apply to Ernie.
Park Ridge got ugly. Ernie’s house was on a pond. In good will he purchased a flock of swans for the pond; someone killed every swan. And to my shock it was over. The greatest baseball player in history had been driven away.
Then I was angry because it was Ernie Banks. A few years later it occurred to me that perhaps people who don’t play baseball or happen to be someone’s teenage idol should also be able to live wherever they want. The unfairness of Ernie’s situation changed my life.
As a banker I worked almost exclusively on bond loans for low and moderate income homeowners. I am sorry I never got to tell Ernie Banks that his shameful treatment did not go unnoticed.
“No Fear for Freedom” was more than a well deserved tribute to the Friendship 9, much more. The timing was perfect after Wednesday’s dismissal of all charges levied against them 54 years ago. The musical told of their sacrifice and suffering, and the great courage they possessed to endure it all.
The audience was captivated by the flood of emotions – fear, anger, frustration, joy, sadness, jubilation and courage. The audience could see these emotions on the performers’ faces, hear it in their voices and feel it throughout McGirt Auditorium.
They said they were ordinary people just like the Friendship 9, and maybe they were. I couldn’t be sure, but I am sure of this: what the Friendship 9 did 54 years ago and what the all-volunteer cast of gifted singers, actors and performers did in the “No Fear for Freedom” musical in Saturday’s matinee performance was anything but ordinary.
Thank you, all of you for being who you are and you are all fearless.
Winslow Schock, D.C.