“It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two.”
Chicago Cubs hall of Famer Ernie Banks
Ernie Banks began his professional baseball career with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League. He joined the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and spent his entire 19 year Major League career with them. Banks won consecutive National League Most Valuable Player Awards as a shortstop in 1958 and ’59.
Banks was the first African-American to play for the Cubs and is one of six Cub players to have his uniform number retired.
Ernie Banks hit 40 or more home runs in a season five times and finished his career with 512 homers. Ernie was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977 and in 1999 he was named to Baseball’s All-Century team.
Ernie Banks’ enthusiasm was infectious. He often would greet opposing players by saying, “Welcome to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.”
Banks is not a big man; he is 6’1″ and played at 180 pounds. Banks, like Hank Aaron had tremendous wrists. Banks had such great years in 1958 and ’59 that he won MVP Awards despite play- ing for second division teams. Jimmy Dykes once said that without Banks the Cubs would finish in Albuquerque.
Ernie Banks never played in a World Series. It appeared as if he might get his chance in 1969. The Cubs led the National League East by five games with 25 to play. Not only did the Mets catch the Cubs, New York finished eight games ahead of Chicago. It was a big blow to Ernie and to Cub fans.
Ernie is a Hall of Famer who has a wonderful disposition. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 1974 when he was in Wichita visiting the Cubs Triple-A Farm team. Ernie could not have been nicer…he was very friendly to everyone whom he encountered…Even though he did not play in a World Series, he was a winner.