Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks has passed away. The cause of death is unknown. He was 83.
After a stint in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs, Banks became the first African-American player to sign with the Cubs and spent his entire 19 year big league career with the Cubs and would become known as “Mr. Cub”.
Although the Cubs were perennial cellar dwellers, Banks was a beloved figure in Chicago for his ebullient personality. Banks was known for saying, “Let’s play two.” He was one of the most dominant offensive players in the National League for nearly two decades from his rookie season in 1954 when he was runner up in NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind Wally Moon of the St. Louis Cardinals. Banks was named to 11 NL All-Star team and won back to back NL MVP Awards in 1958 and 1959. On five occasions, he hit 40 or more home runs, drove in 100 or more runs eight times. He would retire after the 1971 season and finish his career with a .274 lifetime batting average, 512 home runs and 1636 RBI.
Banks was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 in his first year on the ballot with 83.8% of the vote. In 1982, he became the first Cub to have his number retired. The Cubs would erect a statue in his honor in 2008. Banks said, “When I am not here, this will be here.” In 2013, President Obama honored Banks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Unfortunately, Banks never played a post-season game. If the Cubs should finally win their first World Series since 1908, it will be bittersweet not to have Banks and, for that matter, Ron Santo on hand. Although if the Cubs do triumph, I’m sure Santo will click his heels and Banks would smile and say, “Let’s win two.”
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