Positions: Shortstop; First baseman
Teams: Kansas City Monarchs, 1950, 1953; Chicago Cubs, 1953-1971
Ernie Banks played his entire major-
league career with the Chicago Cubs
but never saw postseason action.
Born in 1931, Ernest Banks was a four-sport athlete in high school, but it was his play in a church-sponsored softball league that induced a scout for the semipro Amarillo Colts to sign Ernie at age 17, in 1948. Within two years, he made it to the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the strongest teams in the Negro Leagues. He played one season before he was drafted into the Army for a two-year stint.
After his discharge, Ernie played the 1953 season for the Monarchs. The major-league teams were interested in Banks, but Monarchs owner Tom Baird refused to sell Ernie's rights to a minor-league club, insisting that Banks go directly to the bigs. The Cubs relented, and Ernie, the first African American on the Cubs, played in 10 games for Chicago that year.
Banks was the everyday shortstop in 1954, hitting .275 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI. In 1955, he batted .295 and clubbed 44 home runs, with five grand slams, a single-season record he shares with Jim Gentile.
Banks hit .285 with 43 homers in 1957. He was the first player from a sub-.500 team to be voted the league's MVP, when he led the league with 47 home runs (the most ever by a shortstop) and 129 RBI in 1958. The next year he became the first player in the NL to win back-to-back MVP Awards. Banks again led the league in RBI (143) and had 45 round-trippers. He led the NL with 41 homers in 1960.
Banks was a fine shortstop for nine seasons, winning a Gold Glove in 1960. His double-play total of 105 in 1954 is still a rookie record. He was an 11-time All-Star. His move to first base in 1962 was brought on by knee injuries, not defensive shortcomings. He had 37 homers and 104 RBI that year.
Banks hit over 40 homers five times, and had over 100 RBI in eight seasons. He had over 80 RBI in 13 seasons.
Although the Cubs failed to win a pennant during Ernie's 19-year career, he earned the title "Mr. Cub." He was well known for his love of the game, and his credo, "Nice day for baseball. Let's play two," has become part of baseball lingo.
Banks remained a hero in Chicago after his retirement as a player, as he took up a new career in the Cubs' front office. He was inducted in 1977.
Here are Ernie Banks's Negro league statistics*:
|BA||G||AB ||H ||2B ||3B ||HR||SB |
|.255||53 ||196||50 ||11 ||1||1||3|
Here are Ernie Banks's major league totals:
|BA||G ||AB ||R||H ||2B||3B ||HR ||RBI ||SB |
|.274||2,528 ||9,421||1,305||2,583 ||407||90||512||1,636||50|
*Note: Banks's Negro League career statistics are incomplete.
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