Baseball lost a legend yesterday. The world lost a true gentleman.
Ernie Banks died last night at the age of 83.
He was born in Dallas, but made his living in Chicago. It was a pretty amazing living. Ernie redefined the position of shortstop forever. (Funny, it doesn’t seem right referring to him as Banks. He’s Ernie. Like a friend you’ve known for years.)
Before Ernie, shortstops had one job. Field the ball. Hitting was for corner outfielders or corner infielders. Shortstops were defense.
But Ernie could hit. In one eight-year stretch, he averaged 39 home runs, and 100 RBIs. In fact, from 1955 to 1960 he out-homered Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. He won two MVPs, in 1958 with 47 HRs and 127 RBIs. The following year he had 45 HRs and 143 RBIs to win the NL MVP again. Back to back.
His beloved Cubs finished fifth out of eight teams both those years, and never went to the World Series during the nineteen years Ernie played. (When he played, there were no playoffs. Post-season was the World Series.)
Rest in peace, Ernie Banks. You made it to a better place than the World Series.