Click on photo to enlarge
By FRANK BARNING
If you are a huge baseball fan who has followed the game for several decades, mentally you might have a list of the living players you would most like to meet and have the opportunity to spend some quality time with. My baseball bucket list would have included Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.
Vivian and I were invited to the huge annual confection industry show by Donrusss, which at the time was a major baseball card producer and was owned by Leaf which also controlled candy brands such as Jolly Rancher. We were invited to some really great events while she and I were publishing Baseball Hobby News, 1979-1993.
The photo above tells the story, including the date "2-23-85." That was 26 years ago. Ernie Banks was representing Cracker Jack (see background) and the by invitation-only visitors could press the flesh with celebrity brand representatives. We also met Ray Fosse, of Pete Rose All-Star Game collision fame, and Mr. T, among others.
When we came upon Banks at the Cracker Jack booth, he wasn't particularly busy so we introduced ourselves and he knew about our publication, or at least so he said. Anyway, we got into an interesting conversation and then he was paged. This was before cell phones. He apologized that he had to leave for a few minutes but urged us to stay at his booth because he enjoyed speaking with us.
So we hung out for awhile, not expecting him to return. When he did, he came bearing gifts for us from the booth to which he had been called. We picked up on the conversation, and chatted for at least a half hour. It was an experience that Vivian and I would never forget. It was like talking to an old friend.
Cracker Jack had a photographer on hand and Ernie insisted we have a picture taken with him. The mounted Polaroid was quickly returned and you can see his inscription.
And another highlight was that there was what was reverently called "The Candy Room". Near the convention hall exit was a huge room with bin after bin of the products of the confectionary show exhibitors. We were each given a large bag which we could fill with anything we wished - candy, nuts, novelties and more. The rule was that you could only take with you that which would fit in the bag. Vivian doesn't admit to sneaking some "much-needed licorice" into her large purse, but I know what I saw.
It was a sweet day indeed, but Ernie Banks was the icing on the cake for the Barnings.