Ernie Banks tried to dissuade Obama

Updated: August 13, 2013, 9:17 PM ET
By Bruce Levine | ESPNChicago.com

Ernie Banks, the latest recipient of the highest honor a civilian can receive from a President of the United States, dropped a minor bombshell on Tuesday.

The Hall of Fame shortstop said he tried to talk to then-Senator Barack Obama out of running for this country's highest office in 2007.

Banks, who was at Wrigley Field to be saluted by the Chicago Cubs for the presidential honor, said that he thought the then-junior Senator from Illinois probably would have a tough time winning.

"I met him at a Jesse Jackson dinner at Navy Pier," Banks said. "He was there speaking. I wanted to say hi to him. I talked to his assistant and I said I have to talk to Barack.

"I got his card, and the next day he announced he was a candidate. I was going to tell him not to run. I said, 'Do you really want to do this?' "

Banks, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the President recently, has become quite friendly with Obama since his first meeting five years ago.

"He is a wonderful guy and a brilliant man," Banks said. "I have tried to get him to come to Wrigley Field, but he will not. He is a loyal White Sox fan."

The 82-year-old Banks, a Chicago icon, related his reasons for telling Obama not to run for president.

"I ran for Alderman in [the early 1970's] and Mayor [Richard J.] Daley was running the city," Banks said. "Someone asked the mayor where that baseball player was going to finish in the race for the 8th Ward. He said somewhere out in left field. That is where I finished."

Banks said he will receive his medal on Nov. 30 in Washington.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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