Ernest "Ernie" Banks (January 31, 1931 – January 23, 2015), nicknamed "Mr. Cub" and "Mr. Sunshine", was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) shortstop and first baseman. He spent his entire major league career playing on the Chicago Cubs for 19-years, from 1953 through 1971. Banks is regarded by some as one of the greatest players of all time.
Banks began his professional baseball career in 1950, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues. He served in the US military for two years and returned to the Monarchs before beginning his MLB career in September 1953. Beginning in 1955, Banks was a National League (NL) All-Star for 11 seasons, playing in 13 of the 15 All-Star Games that were played. Banks was the main attraction for the Cubs in the late 1950s. He was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959, and was the Cub's first Gold Glove winner in 1960.
Banks became a regular first baseman for the Cubs in 1962. In the mid-1960s, Cubs manager Leo Durocher became frustrated with Banks, saying that the slugger's performance was faltering, and felt he was unable to remove Banks from the lineup due to the star's popularity among Cubs fans. Banks was a player-coach from 1967 through 1971. In 1969, he was voted by Cubs fans through a Chicago Sun-Times fan poll as the greatest Cub ever. Banks hit his 500th career home run at Wrigley Field in 1970. He retired from playing in 1971, and was the first Cubs player to have his uniform number retired in 1982. He joined the Cubs coaching staff in 1972.
Banks was active in the Chicago community during and after his tenure with the Cubs. He founded a charitable organization, became the first black Ford Motor Company dealer in the United States, and made an unsuccessful bid for a local political office. Banks was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. He was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. In 2013, Banks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to sports. Banks lived in the Los Angeles area.
By Dean Hanley
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