Oct. 19, 2017
Mr. Cub: Ernie Banks
Mr. Cub Ernie Banks began his professional baseball career in the Negro leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1950. Uncle Sam came calling, and during the Korean War Ernie Banks served in the U.S. Army. After his military service in 1953, he returned briefly to the Kansas City Monarchs. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs, he was the first African American baseball player to play for the Cubs. He made a brief debut with the Cubs in 1953.
In 1954, his official rookie season, Banks would finish second in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting to Wally Moon. Banks gave only a glimpse of things that were to come when he hit 19 home runs with 79 RBI with a slash line of ,275/.326/.427. In 1955, he broke out by hitting 44 home runs, a record for shortstops. Banks would win back-to-back MVP awards in 1958-1959 on a team that finished fifth in an eight team league.
Knee injuries necessitated a move to first base, after brief stint in left field for Banks. Banks never hit more than forty home runs after in 1960. Baseball entered a era of being dominated by pitchers as many refer it as the second dead ball era. Banks continued to be productive at the plate hitting 28 home runs and 106 RBI. In 1966, Banks had an off year on a last place ball club, prompting the desire of manager Leo Durocher's desire to trade him. An idea that was quickly squelched by the Cubs ownership. In 1969, Ernie Banks got as close as he would ever make a postseason when late in the season the Cubs held an 8.5 game lead over the New York Mets. The Mets went on a historic run as the Cubs tanked that season. He finished that season, his last productive campaign with 23 home runs and 106 RBI.
Banks would finish his career as a 14 times National League all-star, 1960 Gold Glove award winner at shortstop, he finished with 512 career home runs, 277 as a shortstop, a record that was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. In 1977, Banks was elected in his first year of eligibility to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He left a legacy of the love of the game, and to Chicago Cubs fans, he will always be Mr. Cub.