Earl Finkler

Earl Finkler

It was a chilly day Jan. 23 when I heard of the death of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, at the age of 83. What a gifted player, with lots of power and great fielding.

But more than that, even though Ernie never got to a World Series, he was always upbeat and optimistic. Each year, he would predict a pennant for the Cubs, who have not won a series since back in 1908. And who can forget his saying of, “Hey it’s a beautiful day—let’s play two,” even when it was very hot and humid.

He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible.

Back when I was the morning host on KBRW up in Barrow, Alaska, the listeners often laughed when I shared my love for the Cubbies. “Even when I was walking around town in 25-below weather, people would sometimes stop their vehicle to get out and argue about how pitiful the Cubs were.

I tried to get Ernie as a guest for my morning interview but just could not connect. But then, around 1999, I got a call from a radio announcer in Anchorage.

She said Ernie had been a recent visitor there, and they told him about a Cubs fan way up in the Arctic. And they made a tape of Ernie, when he greeted me at long distance and encouraged me to keep the faith. I’ll always treasure that cassette.

One other Cub Hall of Famer I did get to interview was the late, great announcer Harry Caray. My wife Chris and I just loved hearing Harry do the play-by-play from Wrigley, and his enthusiasm, even when the Cubs were losing 10-5 or something like that.

After a lot of calls to the Cubs, I finally got 60 seconds of Harry just as he was leaving the hotel to go to Wrigley for a broadcast. I told him there were die-hard fans way up in the Arctic, and that we wished him well.

“Thanks… got to go,” he said, with a “Harumph.”

But I didn’t care—it was Harry!

Rest well, Ernie and Harry. “Hey, hey –let’s play two,” and “Harumph,” and “Take me out to the ballgame.”

Finkler, a frequent visitor to Dyersville, relocated to Medford, Wis., in 2008 after previously living in Barrow, Alaska.