It is with a heavy heart that I pass along the news that is making the rounds: at age 83, Ernie Banks has passed away.
Mr. Cub earned his nickname for a reason, and it’s going to take a little time to get past this one. I have no doubt that he was excited by the direction he saw the Cubs heading, and it’s very sad to think that he won’t be around to see the fruits. So it is with Cubs fans and Cubs greats, and Ernie was both. He was loved, and will be missed, by many.
Keep on playing two, Ernie.
The Cubs released a statement on the passing:
The Chicago Cubs tonight are saddened to announce that Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, the greatest Cub in franchise history, has passed away at the age of 83.
“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time,” said Tom Ricketts, Chairman of the Cubs. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.
“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”
Inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977, Ernie played the game he loved as a lifelong Cub for 19 seasons from when he made his debut with the club in 1953 until his retirement in 1971. He was a 14-time All-Star and back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959, when he hit 47 home runs with 129 RBI in 1958 and followed up with 45 home runs and 143 RBI in 1959.
Banks hit 512 home runs in his career, surpassing the 40-home run mark five times in his career, and his 277 home runs as a shortstop remain a National League record to this day.
Banks ranks first in games played (2,528), at-bats (9,421), extra-base hits (1,009) and total bases (4,706); second in home runs (512), RBI (1,636) and hits (2,583); third in doubles (407); fifth in runs scored (1,305); seventh in triples (90); and eighth in walks (763).
Starting while still as a player in 1967, Ernie turned his eye to coaching and served in that role through 1973, becoming the first African American to manage a major league team on May 8, 1973 when he took over for the ejected Whitey Lockman.
Banks became the first player in franchise history to have his number retired in 1982, as his flag flies from the left-field foul pole to this day. He was also voted to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team and honored on the field at the All-Star Game in Fenway Park in 1999.
Beyond his statistics on the field, Banks was famous for his endearing charm and his remarkable wit. He became the first player in franchise history to be honored with a statue at Wrigley Field when he helped with the unveiling at Clark and Addison on March 31, 2008. His statue is adorned with his famous line, “Let’s Play Two”.
In 2013, Banks was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award given to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.