Major League Baseball legend and Chicago Cubs star Ernie Banks died last Friday, just days short of his 84th birthday. Affectionately known as “Mr. Cub,” the 14-time All-Star played his entire career in the Windy City, remaining a beloved figure beyond his playing days.
Banks was born January 31, 1931 in Dallas, Texas. In 1950, Banks joined the professional baseball ranks as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues.
After a two-year military stint, Banks made his major league baseball debut with the Cubs in 1953. Playing first base and shortstop, Banks was one of the team’s brightest spots. Banks played in the All-Star Game every year from 1957-1971 and won the National League MVP award in 1958 and 1959.
While the Cubs never made into the post-season with Banks on the roster, his stellar numbers could not be denied. Banks hit 512 home runs, batted in 1, 636 runs, had 2,583 hits and had a career batting average of .274.
Those numbers led to Banks’ induction into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1977. When age diminished Banks’ play between1967 and 1971, he took on a coaching role. And despite the championship success of other teams, Banks never regretted playing for the Cubs. Banks was known for his outgoing personality and love of the game.
His famous phrase, “It’s a beautiful day for a baseball game…Let’s play two!” referenced his love of baseball double headers, as well as his ongoing enthusiasm for the game.
In 2013, Banks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, who used Banks’ famous “Let’s Play Two!” catchphrase in his speech during ceremony. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that his office is working in tandem with the Banks family to stage a public memorial service.
According to a family statement, Banks suffered a heart attack last week. He was 83. Banks is survived by his wife of 18 years, Liz, and four children.