Weekend Edition Saturday

Saturday mornings are made for Weekend Edition Saturday, the program wraps up the week's news and offers a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts, sports, entertainment, and human interest stories. The two-hour program is hosted by NPR's Peabody Award-winning Scott Simon.

Drawing on his experience in covering 10 wars and stories in all 50 states and seven continents, Simon brings a humorous, sophisticated and often moving perspective to each show. He is as comfortable having a conversation with a major world leader as he is talking with a Hollywood celebrity or the guy next door.

Weekend Edition Saturday has a unique and entertaining roster of other regular contributors. Marin Alsop, conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, talks about music. Daniel Pinkwater, one of the biggest names in children's literature, talks about and reads stories with Simon. Financial journalist Joe Nocera follows the economy. Howard Bryant of EPSN.com and NPR's Tom Goldman chime in on sports. Keith Devlin, of Stanford University, unravels the mystery of math, and Will Grozier, a London cabbie, talks about good books that have just been released, and what well-read people leave in the back of his taxi. Simon contributes his own award-winning essays, which are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant.

Weekend Edition Saturday is heard on NPR Member stations across the United States, and around the globe on NPR Worldwide. The conversation between the audience and the program staff continues throughout the social media world.

The death of an Argentinian prosecutor investigating what he said was a government cover-up has the entire country talking. NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro tells Scott Simon the latest developments.

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Greece could elect an anti-austerity party on Sunday, a development which could trigger another Greek debt crisis.

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Chicago Cub Ernie Banks, right, told NPR's Scott Simon, left, in 2014 that h...
Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks has died. NPR's Scott Simon remembers the two-time National League MVP as the nice guy who finished first and brought smiles to all his fans' faces.

Every Saturday just before our show begins I get on the public address system here to announce to our crew, "It's a beautiful day for a radio show. Let's do two today!"

It's an admiring imitation of Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame baseball player who died last night at the age of 83. Ernie used to say, especially in the long years of hot summers — including this last one, when the Cubs were stuck in last place — "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two today!"

It became his signature line. People on the street people would ask for it, the way kids at a concert call out for Bruce Springsteen to sing "Born in the U.S.A.", and he'd oblige. "Let's play two! Let's play two!" It was a phrase he used to remind himself and other players that whatever their complaints, they got to play a game for a living, and hear the cheers of strangers. It was a reminder to all of us to cherish life and the chance to have work that gives enjoyment to others.

Ernie Banks had to hang his uniform on a nail when he began to play ball with the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Leagues in 1950. In 2013, the president of the United States, an African-American man from his hometown, hung the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck.

Leo Durocher, the old player and manager who had famously groused, "Nice guys finish last," and was more noted for epithets than compliments, said, "Banks is the one nice guy who finished first — but he had the talent to go with it."

It was that talent — the almost feline-slender wrists that could snap a baseball bat like a whip — and his lifelong stats that got him into the Hall of Fame. Ernie Banks hit 512 home runs. He was twice the Most Valuable Player in the National League, but over the years of playing with a team that became best-known as a punchline for losing, it was another stat by which he became known: No man ever played more games without ever getting into a championship game.

I got to interview Ernie Banks a few times over the years: as a young reporter, for a couple of books, and on this show. He was unfailingly gracious. But he also plainly enjoyed being Ernie Banks for people. He enjoyed seeing the smiles he could bring to children's faces, and the way he could make middle-aged people light up like children when they saw him.

Ernie Banks was a big star. But he was also baseball's sunshine.

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