Results tagged ‘ Ernie Banks ’
Cubs legend Ernie Banks turns 83 years young today. The two-time NL MVP is a member of the 500 home run club and was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. He finished his career as an 11-time All-Star and claimed a Gold Glove in 1960. Banks was the first Cub to have his number retired at Wrigley Field.
(National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
Every year, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson’s 1947 breaking of the color barrier, but the Cubs organization made some history of its own six years later.
Sept. 22, 1953, marks the 60th anniversary of the day the North Siders fielded baseball’s first African-American double play combo: shortstop Ernie Banks and second baseman Gene Baker. Though Robinson and others had already integrated the game, racism was still rampant throughout the country, keeping many qualified African-American players out of the big leagues. The talented Baker, who played eight seasons for the Cubs and Pirates and made the 1955 NL All-Star team, was a victim of this prejudice.
Baker signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1950, but despite three-plus successful seasons in the minors, owner P.K. Wrigley opted to wait to bring Baker up until the team acquired another major league-ready African-American player. Wrigley figured because the two could stay in the same hotel rooms and eat at the same places, it would reduce the pressure on them.
On Sept. 8, the Cubs purchased the contract of 22-year-old shortstop Banks from the Kansas City Monarchs. He made his major league debut on Sept. 17, and Baker made his three days later as a pinch-hitter. Then, on Sept. 22, the duo made big league history when Banks started at shortstop and Baker moved over to second base.
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.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
President Barack Obama today announced Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks has been named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this great award and to be among such distinguished honorees,” Banks said. “I have spent my life trying to help others enjoy and appreciate the sport I love. I thank President Obama for all his efforts. The Chicago Cubs and Cubs fans everywhere share in this award, as their support makes me proud to continue to work on behalf of America’s greatest game.”
According to the White House, The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
“This honor is well deserved for a man who has done so much for the game of baseball,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “His contributions on and off the field have made a monumental impact to society. He is a great American ambassador who continues to spend his time and effort helping others love and appreciate America’s pastime.”
Banks joins a distinguished list of baseball players to receive this prestigious award, including Hank Aaron (2002), Roberto Clemente (2003), Joe DiMaggio (1977), Stan Musial (2011), Buck O’Neil (2006), Frank Robinson (2005), Jackie Robinson (1984) and Ted Williams (1991).
All month, we’ll be unveiling the best single seasons by a Cubs player at each position in the team’s more than 100-year history, using the advanced statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR). For the sixth installment of our WAR All-Star team, we turn to the six spot on the diamond, where it should come as no surprise Mr. Cub mans the shortstop position. Though Ernie Banks had a Hall of Fame career, it didn’t get much better than his two-year stretch from 1958-59.
Here’s how we chose our team.
What WAR essentially does is aggregate everything an individual contributes—offensively and defensively—into one definitive number that conveys his value, typically ranging from -1 to 10. The purpose of the formula is to quantify how much a team would lose if a player was swapped for an average replacement player.
In order to qualify for our team, each player had to spend the majority of his time at a single position during the season being measured. And because the team wasn’t officially christened the Chicago Cubs until 1903, players who represented the Orphans, Colts and White Stockings were excluded (apologies to Bill Hutchison and his 10.6 WAR in 1892).
For more information or the entire team, be sure to pick up a copy of July’s issue of Vine Line. And watch the blog in the coming weeks for the rest of the roster.
Shortstop: Ernie Banks, 1959—9.7 WAR
When it comes to finding the top season for a Cubs shortstop, it’s not really a question of who but rather when. Ernie Banks’ MVP campaigns in 1958 and 1959 are two of the position’s all-time best—his 1959 WAR total of 9.7 is still the highest for a shortstop since Honus Wagner’s 11.8 in 1908. Mr. Cub’s 45 home runs that year are the second most all time for a National League shortstop (trailing only his ’58 incarnation), while his 143 RBI are the most ever for an NL shortstop. Despite nearing the end of his run as a middle infielder, Banks committed just 12 errors and had an elite defensive season, recording a 23 on the defensive metric total zone rating (where 15 is considered Gold Glove caliber). The late ’50s and early ’60s might not have been the best time for Cubs baseball, but Banks’ play alone was worth the price of admission, especially during his prime.
Rob Neyer’s Take:
“Choosing between 1958 and 1959 is like choosing between chocolate and strawberry. Or maybe between chocolate and just slightly better chocolate, as Mr. Cub’s numbers were nearly identical in both seasons, with deserved Most Valuable Player Awards.”
Other Notable Seasons:
Ernie Banks – 8.7 WAR (1958)
Ernie Banks – 7.8 WAR (1955)
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, let’s take a moment to thank our troops for all they do—and all they have done—for our country. Prior to joining the North Siders in 1953, “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, spent two years in the United States Army during the Korean War. Former Cubs pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander also served in the Army during World War I.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
As the Jackie Robinson biopic 42: The True Story of An American Legend is released in theaters nationwide Friday, the Chicago Cubs announced they will honor the 66th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier on Tuesday, April 16. This historic moment is celebrated league-wide each year on April 15, with all uniformed personnel wearing Robinson’s retired no. 42 in honor of the legendary Hall of Famer.
“We’re happy to join all of Major League Baseball on this historic occasion,” said Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Chicago Cubs. “Jackie Robinson is a true American hero, and we are all greatly indebted to his contribution to not only baseball, but to American history and culture.”
Since the Cubs’ home series against the Texas Rangers begins on April 16, the Cubs will honor Robinson during a pregame ceremony, and players on both teams will wear No. 42. Nearly 50 “42” flags will adorn the roof of Wrigley Field during the series.
In addition, the Chicago Cubs will host more than 300 Chicago Public School (CPS) high school baseball players to attend Tuesday night’s game in recognition of the celebration. Several CPS baseball players will be recognized during the pregame ceremony.
As part of the pregame ceremony, Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Billy Williams will both be recognized. Banks shares a special kinship with Robinson as the first African-American to play for the Cubs. Banks considered Robinson a mentor during their time in the majors.
Billy Williams broke into the majors not long after Robinson and Banks, and credits Robinson with being the pioneer who opened the door for all baseball players of color. Williams will share his comments about Robinson and his own personal experience playing in the Robinson-era during the game telecast on Comcast SportsNet.
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., who gave the eulogy at Robinson’s funeral services in Brooklyn, N.Y., and actor John C. McGinley will throw out the first pitches t the game. McGinley, who stars as Brooklyn play-by-play announcer Red Barber in the movie, will also serve as the guest conductor for the 7th-inning stretch.
Following the game, Cubs Authentics will auction a game worn No. 42 jersey signed by all the Cubs players and a flag from the roof of Wrigley Field, with proceeds going to Chicago Cubs Charities.
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks turned 82 years old Thursday. Mr. Cub played 19 seasons with the Cubs, accumulating MVP awards in 1958-59, racking up 11 All-Star trips and a Gold Glove in 1960. Banks was a career .274 hitter and was the ninth member to join the 500 home run club, finishing with 512. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, earning 83.8 percent of the votes on his first attempt.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The first snow of the season is due tonight in Chicago. Ernie’s ready. Are you?