January 24, 2015

AND THEO SHALL REDEEM HIS FAITH:

Ernie Banks, Hopeful Mr. Cub, Dies at 83; His Mantra Was 'Let's Play 2' (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, JAN. 23, 2015, NY Times)

The most popular Cub ever in a franchise dating to the 1870s, Banks became as much an institution in Chicago as the first Mayor Daley, Studs Terkel, Michael Jordan and George Halas.

Banks cut a slender figure at the plate in his right-handed stance, at 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds, but he whipped a light bat with powerful wrists, hitting 512 home runs. He was named the most valuable player in the National League in 1958 and 1959, the first to win the award in consecutive years, although the Cubs finished tied for fifth place each time. He was an All-Star in 11 seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year of eligibility.

Banks became the Cubs' first black player on Sept. 17, 1953, six years after Jackie Robinson broke the modern major league color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Like Robinson, he had played for the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the Negro leagues' best-known ball clubs, and when he joined the Cubs, many major league teams were still all white. He was among the first black stars of the modern game, along with Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe of the Dodgers, Larry Doby with the Cleveland Indians, Hank Aaron with the Milwaukee Braves and Monte Irvin and then Willie Mays with the New York Giants.

Banks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, from President Obama in 2013. "I handed the president a bat that belonged to Jackie Robinson," he told Sports Illustrated the next year. "The president held the bat in his hands -- that was a thrill."

Apart from Banks's slugging feats, Mr. Obama hailed his "cheer and his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way."

"And that's serious belief," Mr. Obama added, to laughter. "That is something that even a White Sox fan like me can respect."

Long after retiring, Banks recalled the sweltering midsummer's day in 1969 when he bubbled over in a phrase that became his trademark.

"We were in first place, and all the reporters were already in the locker room when I arrived at Wrigley for a game with the Cardinals," Banks told The Arizona Daily Star. "I walked in and said: 'Boy, it's a beautiful day. Let's play two.' They all thought I was crazy."


As if we needed further reason to believe this is the year the Cubs finally do it.




Posted by at January 24, 2015 8:13 AM
  

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