Ernie Banks

Ernest Banks
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1977
Primary team: Chicago Cubs
Primary position: 1st Baseman

“There’s sunshine, fresh air, and the team’s behind us. Let’s play two.”

Ernie Banks reprised his signature line at his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1977. His sunny disposition was perfect for the “Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field, last outpost of exclusively day baseball. Perhaps no player defines his team as thoroughly as “Mr. Cub,” who played with joy and immense talent for the Cubs from 1953-71, though never making a postseason appearance.

A native of Dallas, Texas, 19-year-old Ernie Banks debuted for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues in 1950. After two years in the Army, Banks returned to the Monarchs, who sold his contract to the Chicago Cubs in 1953. His debut on September 17th marked the first appearance of an African-American player for the franchise.

Banks started every game at shortstop for the Cubs in 1954, finishing 2nd in NL Rookie-of The Year voting and 16th in MVP voting. Banks would go on to win Most Valuable Player Awards in 1958 and ’59.

Banks was an excellent defensive player at two positions, shortstop from 1953-61, and first base from 1962-71. At the former position, he led the league in fielding percentage three times, picking up a gold glove in 1960, when he led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage, double plays, games, put-outs, and assists. As a first baseman, he led the league in put-outs five times, assists three times, and double plays and fielding percentage once each, compiling a .994 fielding percentage at the first sack.

It was with the bat that Banks really shone, however, hitting over 40 homers five times and leading the league twice in homers and twice in RBI. He was a three-time .300 hitter who compiled a lifetime batting average of .274, along with 2583 hits, 1305 runs scored, and 1636 runs batted in. On May 12, 1970, he hit the 500th home run of his career, becoming just the ninth player and first shortstop to reach the plateau. He finished with 512.

Banks was a member of 11 NL All-Star teams. In a 1969 Chicago Sun-Times fan poll, he was voted the “Greatest Cub Ever.” He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1977. Along with Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken, Jr., he was one of three shortstops named to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team in 1999.

Hall-of-Fame manager Leo Durocher, Banks’ skipper with the Cubs from 1966-71, was famous for asserting that “Nice guys finish last.” But he made an exception for “Mr. Cub:” “Banks is one nice guy who finished first—but he had the talent to go with it.”

"He rejoices merely in living, and baseball is a marvelous extra that makes his existence so much more pleasurable. "
Arthur Daley (Famed Sportswriter)

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1977
Primary Team: Chicago Cubs
Position Played: 1st Baseman
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: Dallas, Texas
Birth year: 1931
Played for:
Chicago Cubs (1953-1971)
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
2528
At BatsAB
9421
RunsR
1305
HitsH
2583
Doubles2B
407
Triples3B
90
Home RunsHR
512
RBIRBI
1636
Stolen BasesSB
50
WalksBB
763
Batting AverageBA
.274
OPSOPS
.830
On Base %OBP
.330
Slugging %SLG
.500