Beloved “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks has died at age 83, the Chicago Cubs confirmed Friday night.
“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,” Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
A 19-year-old Banks debuted for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues in 1950. After a two-year stint in the Army, Banks returned to the Monarchs, who sold his contract to the Cubs in 1953.
Banks made his debut for the Cubs in 1953, as the team’s first black player. In his 19-year career, he played in 14 All-Star Games, hit 512 home runs (including five seasons with 40 or more) and was the first National League player to win back-to-back MVP honors. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year eligible.
Banks is the Cubs’ leader in games played (2,528), at-bats (9,421), plate appearances (10,395) and extra-base hits (1,009). He is second in home runs, hits (2,583) and RBIs (1,636).
He 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.
For all of the 19 seasons and 2,528 games Banks played in a Cubs uniform, he never played in the postseason.
Banks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States, by President Barack Obama in 2013.
Banks would have turned 84 on Jan. 31.
SOURCE: ESPN.com news services