Results tagged ‘ Ernie Banks ’

Hot Off the Press: July VL featuring the best player from every decade at Wrigley Field

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I’m a sucker for nostalgia, which is one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed this season at Wrigley Field so much. I have been looking forward to Wrigley’s 100th birthday for a few years now because I knew it would give Vine Line a chance to really delve into the organization’s history.

We not only produce the magazine, but we also create the scorecards sold at the Friendly Confines during every home series. To tie in with the Cubs’ 10 Decades, 10 Homestands promotion, we’ve been populating the covers with photos specific to the years being celebrated—which means we’ve spent countless hours searching the team’s photo archives for just the right shots.

When the Yankees were in town during the 1930s homestand, we found a picture from the 1932 World Series between the North Siders and the Bronx Bombers. When the Cubs were honoring the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during the 1940s series, we found a photo of the league’s tryouts, which were held at Wrigley Field in 1943.

In the interest of full disclosure, my home is littered with black-and-white photographs of everything from the Chicago Theater to my relatives during WWII to the Cubs at Spring Training on Catalina Island. I love this stuff, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent a few evenings looking through the photo archives just for fun.

In other words, this is probably something I shouldn’t get paid to do (though I probably don’t need to spread that news around).

Some of the things that caught my eye when we were planning our 2014 content for the magazine last year were the memorable program and scorecard covers the team used from the 1930s through the 1960s. We liked them so much, we decided to dedicate the valuable back page of the magazine (The Score) to featuring some of the best of the best this season.

When we wanted to learn more about the scorecards, we went to that amazing wellspring of arcane Cubs information from every era, team historian Ed Hartig, who has been an invaluable resource for all the historical content we’ve published this year. It turns out, for decades, most of the scorecard designs were the brainchild of one man, Otis Shepard, former art director for the William Wrigley Jr. Co. and longtime member of the Cubs board of directors. For our monthly Wrigley 100 feature, we look into the life and career of Shepard and how he came to design some of the Cubs’ most iconic images.

It’s also the July issue, which means it’s almost time for the Midsummer Classic. For our annual All-Star issue, we set out to find the most valuable Cubs player in each of Wrigley Field’s 10 decades. To do this, we used the stats website Fangraphs to compile the highest Wins Above Replacement totals for each decade. WAR essentially takes all of a player’s offensive and defensive efforts and outputs them into a single number designed to measure how many wins he provides over an average replacement player. There are definitely some names you would expect (I don’t think we could have a list like this without Mr. Cub), but there are also a few surprises (Rick Reuschel, anyone?).

Finally, Vine Line had a dream opportunity in May when the Yankees came to town. We worked with Yankees Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alfred Santasiere III to bring together two of the greatest shortstops the game has ever seen: Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. The legendary players sat down for a tête-à-tête that is every baseball fan’s dream come true.

Of course, we’re good for more than just history lessons. Follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline for the best of the Cubs past, present and future.

And let’s keep that whole “shouldn’t get paid” thing between us.

—Gary Cohen

The Party of the Century shifts to the 1950s

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Ernie Banks made his major league debut in 1953 and claimed the NL MVP in 1958 and ’59. (Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Wrigley Field will host this season’s lengthiest homestand to date, as the Cubs face the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals in a 10-game set from June 20-28 that concludes with a Saturday doubleheader against Washington (separate ticketing required). The team’s throwback uniform, promotional giveaways, specialty food and beverage offerings, and entertainment will mirror the sights and sounds of the 1950s at Wrigley Field as part of the season-long celebration of the ballpark’s 100th birthday.

Throwback Uniforms:
On Friday June 22, the Cubs will sport a throwback uniform from 1953 to honor Mr. Cub Ernie Banks. Banks made his Major League debut Sept. 17, 1953, vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. The 1953 uniform is the last of the zipper-front retro uniforms the team will wear this season. The visiting Pirates will wear a retro uniform from 1953 as well.

Promotional Giveaways:
Fans coming to the ballpark this homestand have the chance to collect a number of unique promotional items, beginning with an exclusive Ernie Banks Debut Bobblehead presented by Giordano’s for the first 10,000 fans attending the game Friday, June 20. On Saturday, June 21, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Cubs T-shirt presented by Cooper Tires. On Sunday, June 22, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive a ’50s Throwback Cubs Mr. Potato Head Keychain, and the first 1,000 kids in the park can run the bases postgame. On Friday, June 27, the first 20,000 fans in the ballpark will receive a Wrigley Field 100 Tote Bag presented by MLB Network. Finally, for the 12:05 p.m. game of the June 28 doubleheader, the first 4,000 kids 13-and-under will receive limited-edition American Girl Doll-sized Cubs apparel.

Cubs Special Events:
On Tuesday, June 24, Cubs fans can show their support of the men and women of our law enforcement and firefighting communities at the Salute to Heroes Night special event. Upon entering, fans can choose a blue Cubs-themed heroes shirt to support the men and women of law enforcement or a red Cubs-themed heroes shirt to support the men and women of the firefighting community. Some of Chicago’s bravest heroes will be honored during the evening’s pregame ceremony. Heroes Night tickets are available in the Budweiser Bleachers, Field Box Outfield or Terrace Reserved Outfield.

The team’s inaugural Halfway to the Holidays event in the Budweiser Bleachers is Wednesday, June 25. Each special event ticketholder will receive a Cubs Ugly Holiday T-shirt inspired by ugly holiday sweater designs.

Teacher Appreciation Night is Thursday, June 26. Teachers are invited to celebrate their hard work with a game ticket in the Budweiser Bleachers, Terrace Reserved Outfield or Upper Deck Reserved Outfield. Special event attendees will receive a Cubs Wall Clock and postgame walk on the warning track.

Tickets for all three special events may be purchased at cubs.com/specialevents.

Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1950s homestand features a Kraft Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich served with Tomato Basil Bisque. The other homestand special is an Elvis “Nanner” Sandwich with peanut butter, banana and bacon. Kraft will continue to donate $100 to Cubs Charities for every opposing batter a Cubs pitcher strikes out at Wrigley Field in the month of June. Fans can pick up “K” cards inside the Decade Diner to help celebrate each strikeout.

The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the 1950s TV Dinner Dog, which is a Vienna Beef hot dog topped with mashed potatoes, gravy and corn.

Adults 21-and-over can enjoy a Mr. Cub #14 Cocktail, served in a limited-edition souvenir glass on the main concourse at Section 109 and in the bleacher patio in left field. This Cubbie Blue cocktail features Smirnoff Vodka, Blue Curacao and lemonade, and is served with a slice of lemon and a cherry.

Community Events:
In addition to the team’s home games, fans can participate in three events benefiting charitable causes. On Friday, June 20, the third annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago concert combines music and baseball. Cubs president Theo Epstein, Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons and Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper will join an All-Star lineup of musicians and personalities at Metro in Wrigleyville to benefit Cubs Charities and Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at metrochicago.com for $50 or fans can call 773-404-CUBS for more information.

The next day, June 21, fans can come to Wrigley Field before that evening’s game to take some swings in the batting cage, throw a ball in the outfield or sit in the team dugouts at Cubs Charities’ Catch in the Confines event presented by Advocate Children’s Hospital. Catch in the Confines tickets are $150 per person or $25 for guests and can be purchased online at cubscharities.org or by calling 773-404-CUBS. All proceeds benefit Cubs Charities.

Finally, on Friday, June 27, Cubs wives will auction off Cubs Favorite Things baskets filled with select gifts and memorabilia on the Wrigley Field concourse during the game. A similar auction will follow online at cubscharities.org June 29-July 6, with all proceeds benefiting Cubs Charities.

Historic Moments:
Wrigley Field hosted noteworthy baseball and non-baseball events in the 1950s, including the debut of Mr. Cub Ernie Banks against the Phillies on April 17, 1953.

In 1951, during the Korean War, Wrigley Field instituted a voluntary policy in which fans who caught a foul ball could return those balls so they could be shipped to servicemen overseas. Fans were asked to write their name and address on the ball so the servicemen would know who sent it.

That same year, on April 17, professional golfer Sam Snead did what no major league batter has ever done—he hit Wrigley Field’s center field scoreboard with a golf ball and also hit a ball over the scoreboard with his 2-iron for good measure.

On August 21, 1954, a basketball court and portable lights were installed at Wrigley Field for games featuring the Harlem Globetrotters against George Mikan’s U.S. Stars, and the House of David traveling team against the Boston Whirlwinds.

Interestingly, Wrigley Field in Chicago wasn’t the only Wrigley Field in operation heading into the 1950s. The Cubs played Spring Training games at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles until 1951, when the franchise moved its Spring Training home from Santa Catalina Island in California to Rendezvous Park in Mesa, Arizona. The team’s programs at both ballparks featured cover designs by artist Otis Shepard. Season Ticket Holders will notice a nod to the Cubs’ final years at Wrigley Field Los Angeles on their ticket designs for the June 21 and 22 games.

To learn more about these historic moments and others, visit wrigleyfield100.com.

Tickets for the Pirates, Reds and Nationals series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

1000 Words: Mr. Cub meets the Captain

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Even the great ones need a few hitting tips every once in a while. With the Yankees in town on Tuesday, Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, sat down with Yankees captain Derek Jeter for a unique Q&A that will appear in Vine Line and Yankees Magazine. Keep an eye out for the upcoming July issue to get the complete interview.

1000 Words: Banks gets in the spirit

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The Ernie Banks statue gets dressed up for the 100th birthday festivities at Wrigley Field. All the statues around the park will be wearing the Chi-Feds jerseys from 1914. The first 30,000 fans at the game will also take home a replica Chi-Feds jersey.

Both teams will be wearing Federal League throwback uniforms for Wednesday’s game—the Cubs will be dressed in Chi-Feds uniforms, and the Diamondbacks will be dressed as the Kansas City Packers (who the Cubs beat 9-1 on April 23, 1914, to open then-Weeghman Park).

1000 Words: Let’s Play Two!

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Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks would be in seventh heaven.

A steady rain postponed the start of the Cubs-Yankees Interleague series in the Bronx on Tuesday, but the teams are set for a day-night doubleheader Wednesday, with games kicking off at 12:05 p.m. and 6:05 p.m. CST.

The Cubs will get their first look at Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka in the opener. He’ll square off against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts this season. Travis Wood, 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts, will toe the slab in the nightcap, facing off against the Yankees Michael Pineda.

Yesterday’s Jackie Robinson Day festivities were moved to today as well. The first game will be broadcast on CSN, with the evening tilt on WGN.

1000 Words: Happy Birthday Mr. Cub

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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.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Banks and Baker, Game Changers

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(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.

—Phil Barnes

60 Years Ago Today: Ernie Banks makes his Cubs debut

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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.

Banks awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

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(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).

From the Pages of Vine Line: WAR All-Stars—Shortstop

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.

Part 1: WAR All-Stars – Pitcher

Part 2: WAR All-Stars – Catcher

Part 3: WAR All-Stars – First Base

Part 4: WAR All-Stars – Second Base

Part 5: WAR All-Stars – Third Base

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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)

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