Friday, January 23, 2015

Ernie Banks

CHICAGO — Cubs legend Ernie Banks has died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, according to a Cubs source. “Mr. Cub” was 83 years old.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts released the following statement Friday night:
“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 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.”
Banks began his professional baseball career at 19 when he signed a contract with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. After two years in the army, Banks’ contract was sold by the Monarchs to the Cubs for $10,000.

Banks was the first African-American to play in a Cubs game, playing a handful of contests in 1953. Starting in 1954, he rarely left the Cubs lineup for 18 years. Banks rose to stardom in 1955 with a 44 home run season. He won the National League MVP in 1958 and 1959.

Despite Banks’ success, the Cubs continued to lose–until 1969. The Cubs became a contender that summer, only to collapse late in the season and miss out on the playoffs. Banks continued to put up numbers, hitting his 500th home run in 1970.

Banks retired following the 1971 season with 512 career home runs. He continued to serve as a Cubs coach, instructor and administrator. Banks was bestowed with the Presidental Medal of Honor at the White House in 2013. His number was the first retired by the Cubs and in 2008 the team unveiled a statue of Banks off the corner of Clark and Addison.


Known for his fun-loving, positive attitude, "Mr. Cub" broke into Major League Baseball for the Cubs in 1953. Over the course of a 19-year career, all of which came with the Cubs, Banks would hit .274/.330/.500 with 407 doubles, 512 homers and 1636 RBI. He also racked up 2583 hits and 1305 runs.

The 12-time All-Star and two-time MVP led the NL in homers and RBI twice each and is still one of the best power-hitting shortstops in history -- though he did move to first base for the second portion of his career due to knee issues.

With Banks, though, the stats only tell a portion of the tale. His infectious personality won over the hearts of Cubs fans and opposing fans alike for years, despite him being stuck on so many bad Cubs teams. The Cubs' press release announcing his death specifically mentioned his "charm" and "wit."

"Let's play two," Ernie liked to say, suggesting a doubleheader was always better than just a single game in one day. How did it start? Well, he was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as having said the following in July of 1969:

"It was about 105 degrees in Chicago and that's a time when everybody gets tired. I came into the clubhouse and everybody was sitting around and I said, 'Beautiful day. Let's play two!' And everybody looked at me like I was crazy. There were a couple of writers around and they wrote that and it stayed with me."

In 1977, Banks was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in his first ballot, receiving 83.8 percent of the vote.

In 1984, the Cubs retired Banks' No. 14, the first time in the history of the franchise a number was retired.



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