Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#350 Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub. Hall of Famer, baseball ambassador, revered by Chicagoans and pretty much everyone else who was a baseball fan during his era. I could spend a lot of time reviewing Ernie's on-the-field accomplishments but you can see them easily enough over on Baseball Reference or any number of other sites. Here is a list from BR's Bullpen page:
  • 11-time All-Star (1955-1962, 1965, 1967 & 1969)
  • 2-time NL MVP (1958 & 1959)
  • NL Gold Glove Winner (1960/SS)
  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1958)
  • NL At Bats Leader (1958)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (1958)
  • 2-time NL Home Runs Leader (1958 & 1960)
  • 2-time NL RBI Leader (1958 & 1959)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 13 (1955-1962, 1964, 1965 & 1967-1969)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 7 (1955, 1957-1960, 1962 & 1968)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1955 & 1957-1960)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 8 (1955, 1957-1960, 1962, 1965 & 1969)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1957 & 1958)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1977

A few lesser known facts.... Ernie played for the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs before signing with the Cubs. He held the record for playing consecutive games at the start of his career (424.. since broken by Hideki Matsui)... he held the record for grand slams in a season as noted on his Topps card cartoon... he was the first black player for the Cubs and made up one half of the majors' first black dp combo when he was paired with secondbaseman Gene Baker... he finished second to Wally Moon in the Rookie of the Year NL balloting but ahead of Hank Aaron (4th).... he has a web page (pretty sparse) and released a wine that benefits his foundation... he has a statue in his honor outside Wrigley Field (see below).

Ernie's card in this set is one of my favorites. Nice picture, more than a routine portrait. I think it captures him pretty well. Green isn't a Cub color but it seems to show off his uni and expression. My copy has some soft corners but it's pretty darn nice overall, at least in the context of my non-graded collection.

I usually avoid editorializing but I'll make an exception here. I was reading (maybe a card blog?) the other day and the writer was implying that perhaps Ernie's numbers didn't really warrant making him a first ballot H-O-F guy. Maybe, maybe not, when it comes to pure numbers. But in my mind the Hall is more than numbers, or it should be. My favorite writer growing up was the Detroit Free Press' Joe Falls who had a column in the Sporting News for as long as I was a reader. He once wrote that he determined Hall worthiness by asking himself  "If I was writing a history of baseball would I have to include this player?". That may not be a perfect way to do it but I always think of it when the yearly Hall debate rolls around. I'll take it a step farther. If I have to include the guy in the opening chapters, he's a first ballot guy.

Ernie Banks would absolutely have to be included in a baseball history book and would have to have a whole chapter to himself. He was more than a great player he drew people to him and made being a baseball fan more rewarding. Look at more than numbers. Look at Ernie Banks and you'll want to say "Let's Play Two!"

Here are my sons, James and Brooks (who just had to toss in his Astros cap) at the Ernie Banks statute during Christmas week of 2010.


  1. I've seen this card so often, my brain thinks it would be easy to obtain. But I'm smarter than my brain.

  2. I LOVE this card and I can't wait to add it to my '59 set. Banks is a national treasure and is without a doubt a first ballot hall of famer.

  3. It's one of my favorites,too. One of those cards that really capture a player's identity. There are quite a few available at a decent price if you're willing to dig. I think I paid under $20 for mine at a show