Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Ernie Banks, Friend of Science

(All photos by Leah Welty-Rieger)

I know I’ve earned a certain level of fame through my award winning blogging, but despite this I'm sometimes still surprised at the perks that come my way. So you can imagine I was a little surprised when I received my invitation to a private wine tasting with Mr Cub, Ernie Banks (this is where I pretend that I was the only Cub blogger to receive an invitation to the event (my world is a magical place where the deli sells unicorn bacon and I have rhythm)).

I jumped at the opportunity to attend because, come on, it’s Ernie Banks. I knew it would probably be a big event with a few other former Cubs, maybe a famous press guy or two, and a bunch of random people with better clothes and more money than me (that or Zambrano jerseys and slack jaws, it could have gone either way). That makes sense, right?

You might think that, but you’d be wrong. So, so wrong. Here's what really happened...

We arrive and give them our name and we are escorted into a room slightly larger than my freshman year dorm. Of course we were a half hour early (my wife, hired as the official GROTA photographer, or grotographer, has a sickness), so it was me and The Wife, a couple radio reporters, and Ernie and his wife. And that was it. In a little tiny room. And I’m just standing there, pee trickling down my pant leg which I guess makes this the time when we play the game of “Which One of These Does Not Belong”. So we got our wine, hugged the wall, and watched.

But Ernie was having none of that. I mean, he’s Ernie Banks. He walked over and introduced himself (because that was totally necessary) and asked who we were. He asked if my wife was my sister. I assured him she wasn’t. He asked me to prove it.

What a card.

And thus, with a joke from Ernie, the ice was broken and we had a nice little conversation. We informed him that we were physicists from Fermilab (I’m not sure how it didn’t come out that I had recently graduated and sold out but we just ran with it) and we were in. From then on that night, we were his “physicist friends.” Score. During a conversation with a reporter he'd asked if they had meet his "physicist friends. Double Score.

And so the night progress and we enjoyed the wine while watching Ernie circulate and give interviews to the various TV and radio stations. As for us, we were happy with just having spent a night meeting Ernie and drinking free wine.

**Wine Interlude**

Regarding the wine, I throughly enjoyed it. Ernie chose to go with a Chardonnay for his line which I’m told has pinneaple and vanilla notes and, once I was told this, I totally agreed. I mean, I’m not a wine expert. I tend to prefer quantity over quality as evidenced by the regular purchase of a Yellow Tail double bottle, but if you tell me something tastes like pineapple, I’ll taste it.

And while I usually prefer red over white (wine, that is), this was an extremely tasty little drink. *puts on sommelier hat* Unlke most chardonnays , this isn’t a dry white. It’s extremely drinkable and would be great on a hot summer day. Perhaps while watching a baseball game? The Cubs, perhaps?


The wine will retail for $17 with a portion of the proceeds going to Ernie’s charity Live Above and Beyond, a charity to eliminate prejudice, support programs that enhance neighborhoods and relieve discrimination among various age groups and races. This wine will be available in May at Binnys, Sam’s Wine and Spirits, Whole Foods, and Sunset Foods. Buy it, get drunk, and help people.

It’s all about people helping people.

***End Wine Interlude***

And so you might think that’s all that happened that night, but you’d be wrong. So very, very wrong. So wrong that it makes you kind of dumb and makes me a little embarrassed for you. Maybe you should go stand in the corner for a few minutes to atone for your wrongness.

Back? Okay. I’m sorry if I was a little harsh there.

About an hour into the event one of the organizers, Brett, asked if I had had a chance to speak with Ernie and ask him a few questions. I replied that I hadn’t but my mind was moving a little more quickly than that. You see, I’m not a reporter (obviously). Unlike most bloggers, I don’t even aspire to be a pretend reporter. Hell, I only learned to write last week. So, I had no real expectations that I would get a chance to ask questions and thus hadn’t prepared any. Um, oops.

Luckily my brilliance is only surpassed by my modesty (kidding*), so I was able to formulate a little set of questions. And so when Brett brought me over to Mr. Cubs, I was ready(ish). Ernie was his usual gracious self and suggested we head over to the couch where we could get away from the crowd and talk. Cool beans. And by "cool beans" I mean "Holyshit I get to talk to Mr. Cub!"

I thought the best way to start the little mini interview would be to talk about the wine. I mean, that’s why I was invited., right? Unfortunately, I don’t think Ernie wanted to talk about the wine. I think he was all wine-talked out. But we both agreed that it was a good wine for a summer game and then I quickly shifted gears to baseball. When asked about what he thought about the season and how the Cubs would do, this is what he had to say.

"The fans this year are having a satisfied feeling about baseball. They feel the success of the team. They feel the trial and tribulations of the team. The feel confusion about the team. They believe their's no division. Not in the manager, not in the front office, and not in the players. No division. These people got it.

I'm a member of the west side social club where we are capturing the spirit of 1908 and they made me chairman. The last chairman was Joe Tinker. He didn't miss a game.

I'm exicited about this year. The energy level is very high. The managers and players know when enough is enough. It's time to win. It's time for the Cubs to win. We're not putting it on the Cubs player and managers, but it's time to win. It's time for Cubs to Win. It's time to win this World Series. Time for the Cubs to Win."

Suffice to say, it’s going to be a good season.

But that wasn’t the end of our talk. He motioned my wife over to talk and so I offered to take a picture of the two of them together (being the photographer, my wife never gets to be in the pictures), but Ernie wanted none of that. He felt that there were too many pictures taken with all these digital cameras these day and that nobody just talked. He just wanted to get to know people. So we talked about our neighborhood, the Ukranian Village - the location, the food, and the culture. Our time was technically up, but he didn’t seem to care and we weren’t about to end the conversation ourselves. Finally we were pulled away, but not until we’d gotten to talk to Mr. Banks for a full 10 minutes, the longest of any reporter (or fake reporter) at the event.

It’s pretty sweet being Ernie’s Physicist friends. I knew I went into physics for a reason.

And thus the night came to a close. Sure, if could have been just a stupid press event, but because of the generosity of Ernie Banks, it ended up being a great, great night.

Now go buy some wine.

And Go Cubs.

* I'm not kidding

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