60 Years Ago Today: Ernie Banks makes his Cubs debut
Ernie Banks embodies Cubs baseball. A fan favorite since he broke into the big leagues, Mr. Cub was a supremely talented, maximum-effort shortstop who simply loved to be on the diamond.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of his Cubs debut. Banks would go 0-for-4 in a 14-6 loss to the Phillies at Wrigley Field, but it was the beginning of the first-ballot Hall-of-Famer’s 19-year MLB career, all of which was played on Chicago’s North Side. With his initial Cubs game on Sept. 17, 1953, Banks also became the first African-American to play for the organization.
Prior to his time with the Cubs, Banks played for the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs, where he debuted as a 19-year-old infielder in 1950. After two years in the Army, he returned to the Monarchs, where he became one of the league’s brightest young stars.
His play only improved once he made the transition to the National League. The 11-time All-Star totaled 2,583 hits, a .274/.325/.572 line (AVG/OBP/SLG) and became the ninth member of the 500 home run club, finishing with 512. His finest seasons came in the back-to-back MVP campaigns of 1958 and ’59, in which he compiled WARs (wins above replacement) of 8.7 and 9.7, respectively.
In the ’50s and ’60s, most teams were happy to employ a weak-hitting player with a solid glove at the shortstop position. But Banks excelled at both, adding a Gold Glove to his resume in 1960.