CHICAGO—Former baseball player Ernie Banks, also known as “Mr. Cub,” passed away in Chicago on January 23 at the age of 83. His family announced that a heart attack was the cause of death.

Banks played for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971. He was the first African-American player to join the team.

Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts released the following statement on Saturday, January 24. “Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known. Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama also released a statement regarding the passing of the baseball player. “As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” President Obama said in the statement. “Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class — ‘Mr. Cub’ — is ready to play two.”

The official Chicago Bulls Twitter page tweeted, “The Chicago Bulls join all of Chicago in mourning the loss of Ernie Banks, a great athlete and even greater man.”