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Ernie Banks

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Note: This page discusses Hall of Fame infielder Ernie Banks. For the unrelated minor league first baseman Ernie Banks Jr., click here.


Ernest Banks
(Mr. Cub)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1977

BR page


[edit] Introduction


Hall of Famer Ernie Banks played his entire major league career with the Chicago Cubs, winning back-to-back MVP awards and slamming 512 career major league home runs.

He delighted Wrigley Field fans with his long home runs, steady fielding and cheerful disposition. "Mr. Cub" five times hit over 40 in a single season. After smashing a record five grand slams in 1955, he belted 47 round-trippers in 1958, the most ever by a shortstop. He also became the first National Leaguer to win the MVP Award in consecutive years (1958 and 1959).

Banks held the major league record for most consecutive games from the start of his career. After his debut, he played 424 consecutive games. The record was broken in 2005 by Hideki Matsui, whose streak ended at 518 consecutive games in 2006.

Even though Ernie was voted to the All-Century Team as a shortstop, he actually played more games at first base. His nickname was "Mr. Cub". He was also know widely for the saying, "Let's play two", which showed his enthusiasm to play the game.

[edit] Early career

Banks played four sports in high school and signed with a semipro team at age 17. Scouted and signed by the Kansas City Monarchs traveling team's manager, Cool Papa Bell, he made his professional debut with the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs on June 4, 1950, and played the remainder of the season before being drafted into the Army in 1951. While in the Army, he played shortstop for the 242nd Group Barons, part of a baseball conference for American servicemen in Europe. He was informally scouted by a player in the Cleveland Indians minor league system. According to a story told by a former comrade, he received a letter from Cleveland GM Hank Greenberg, inviting him to try out with the Indians when his service time was up.[1] Upon his discharge, however, he returned to the Monarchs for the 1953 season, and was actively scouted by the Cubs, who signed him to a contract on September 8, 1953. He played his last game for the Monarchs on September 13, and joined the Cubs on September 17, never having played a game in the white minor leagues.

[edit] Thriving in the majors

Banks was originally signed to give Gene Baker some company on the Cubs. Baker was the first black player on the Cubs roster but an injury to Baker caused Banks to become the first black player to appear for the Cubs in a game. Baker was a shortstop but moved over to second base for Banks to play shortstop. Baker and Banks formed the double-play combo for the Cubs from 1954 to 1956.

Banks hit strongly in his first brief stint in the majors in 1953 and then hit 19 home runs in 1954 (when he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, behind Wally Moon but ahead of Gene Conley and Hank Aaron). He became a noted slugger in 1955 with 44 home runs and a couple years later in 1957 hit 43 home runs. His MVP seasons were 1958 and 1959, when he not only had 40+ home runs but also hit over .300 for the only two full seasons of his major league career. In 1960 he again had 40+ home runs, the last time he would do so.

[edit] Mature career

Banks also received a Gold Glove in 1960 when he had a good fielding percentage and above-average range. However, by 1962 he was the team's regular first baseman although his fielding percentage and range factor at shortstop were still above average in 1961. He went on to play more major league games at first base than at shortstop (1,259 to 1,125).

Banks was not as good in the second part of his career as he had been in his prime. His OPS+ scores were much lower, although he did hit 37 home runs in 1962 and 32 in 1968. Even late in his career, however, he was respected for the skills and attitudes which he brought to the game, finishing in the top 15 in the MVP voting each year from 1967 to 1969.

Banks spent his later years with the club as a player/coach and spent two seasons as a full-time coach after retiring. He played 2,528 games in the regular season, but not a single one in the postseason, the highest total ever.

[edit] Miscellany

Banks in 2000

Banks, who played more shortstop than anyone else on the 1957 Cubs, also played more third base than any other single player on the Cubs as ten different players each appeared for one or more games at third base.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 19, 1977 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. On August 8, 2013, he was named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, the nation's highest civilian honor; the medal was given to him at the White House on November 20th that year. Former President Bill Clinton was among the others who also received the medal from President Obama that day.

He is the uncle of catcher Bobby Johnson.

Banks being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, November 2013.

Banks's 19 home runs in 1954 was the record for National League rookie shortstops for 53 years. In 2007, Troy Tulowitzki broke his record. Banks was the only NL shortstop to have a 30-HR, 100-RBI season in the NL's first 135 years; Tulowitzki became the second in 2011.

Ernie Banks Quotations:
Each spring training, Ernie would be asked by Chicago sportswriters, how the Cubs would do that season. Many of his responses were memorable, but few of them were correct:
"The Cubs are due in 62"
"The Cubs will come alive in 65"
"Wrigley Field will be heaven in 67"
"The Cubs will be great in 68"
"The Cubs will shine in 69"
"The Cubs will glow in 7-0"

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 11-time All-Star (1955-1962, 1965, 1967 & 1969)
  • 2-time NL MVP (1958 & 1959)
  • NL Gold Glove Winner (1960/SS)
  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1958)
  • NL At Bats Leader (1958)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (1958)
  • 2-time NL Home Runs Leader (1958 & 1960)
  • 2-time NL RBI Leader (1958 & 1959)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 13 (1955-1962, 1964, 1965 & 1967-1969)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 7 (1955, 1957-1960, 1962 & 1968)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1955 & 1957-1960)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 8 (1955, 1957-1960, 1962, 1965 & 1969)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1957 & 1958)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1977

1957 1958 1959
Hank Aaron Ernie Banks Ernie Banks
1958 1959 1960
Ernie Banks Ernie Banks Dick Groat

[edit] Further Reading

  • Lester J. Biederman: "Banks One Of Finest Things That's Happened To Baseball", The Pittsburgh Press, July 15, 1968, p. 25. [1]

[edit] Sources

  1. Coshocton (OH) Tribune, August 28, 1955 ("From the Sidelines" by Bob McCarty)

[edit] Related Sites

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