In Memoriam: Ernie Banks

Tomorrow, January 31, would have been Ernie Banks’s 84th birthday. The beloved “Mr. Cub” died last Friday of a heart attack, and the baseball world mourned a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person.

Banks, who played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, still holds virtually every major career and season record for the team. Some of his chief statistical accomplishments were 512 career home runs (22nd all-time in Major League Baseball), a .274 all-time batting average, 2,583 hits, 1,636 RBIs, and countless individual honors.

He was a 14-time All-Star selection, a two-time National League Most Valuable Player, two-time NL home run champion in 1958 and 1960, twice NL RBI champ, Gold Glove winner in 1960, the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for service to baseball in 1967, a Hall of Fame inductee on his first ballot listing in 1977, and had his No. 14 retired and honored with a flag and statue at Wrigley Field.

Banks remained in baseball after retiring as a player (he liked to say he beat Frank Robinson as MLB’s first African-American manager by two years), and for the rest of his life served as a great ambassador for the Cubs and the Hall of Fame.

One year ago, SABR’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter renamed itself in honor of two native sons, Banks and Bobby Bragan. Banks graduated from Dallas’s Booker T. Washington High School in 1950.

As some SABR chapters celebrate a second weekend of SABR Day festivities tomorrow on Banks’s birthday (“Let’s play two!”), we pay tribute to one of baseball’s greatest stars.

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Originally published: January 30, 2015. Last Updated: January 30, 2015.