Ernie Banks passed away on January 23, 2015, of a long illness and old age; he was 84 years old. The legacy he leaves behind will be unforgettable as long as baseball is America’s past time. Banks, of course, was one of the greatest sluggers of all-time (on the all-century team), but the biggest impact he had on the game was not made by his 512 homer bat, it was Ernie’s passion for baseball that was implemented into the game. His 19-year career was played only for one team, the Chicago Cubs, which earned him the nickname of Mr. Cub while playing in front of some of the most loyal sports fans in the world, at Wrigley Field.
Ernie Banks “Let’s play two” might have been a nice kind-hearted fellow and was easy to approach, but he wasn’t so friendly to pitchers when he stepped into the batter’s box. Mr. Cub was in the prime of his career between 1955-1960, which was in the heart of the second so called “dead ball era”, in which the pitching was so dominant until the mound was lowered in 1968. During Ernie Banks’ prime of 6 outstanding years, the ERA of the league was between 3.00-3.83, but that didn’t bother Ernie. Mr. Cub during 1955-1960 hit for an average of .294 while producing nearly half of his career total of 512 home runs, which contributed to his career slugging percentage of .500. Five out of his 6 prime years, Mr. Cub finished in the top 10 NL MVP voting, including winning it back-to-back years in 1958 and 1959. Sure he was arguably one of the best power hitters of all-time due to his performance during those 6 years in the second dead ball era, but he also had some more tremendous years after 1960, such as in 1965 when he knocked in 106 runs while earning a spot on one of the 11 all-star teams he was a part of. Hitting at a high level was not his only attribute however.
Ernie Banks was quite swift with his feet, as he ran well with quite an athletic poise, collecting a Hall of Fame type of stat with a career total of 4706 total bases (6 times with 300+). He also collected a high total of triples, considering he was a big first baseman with, as he collected 90 of them. First base, however, was not his first primary position, even though he did play the most innings at 1B. Ernie actually collected his single gold glove at shortstop, being one of the few to be able to make or even attempt the move from SS to 1B easily. In 1962, Mr. Cub began his legacy at 1B, where he may never had won a gold glove, but he did have a range factor at 1B (a measure of a fielder’s ability to move to get the ball) that was above leave average.
In 1977, with 83% of the vote, Ernest Banks, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Due to his career accolades including 500+ homers, a .500 SLG%, 2500+ hits, 4000+ total bases, and many more, the lifetime Cub was truly a no brainer in the decision for Cooperstown. The former 2-time NL MVP winner will be truly missed, as his cherished life, career, and love for the greatest game on Earth will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Mr. Cub, let’s hope he is “playing two” in a better place.