THIS DAY IN SPORTS: Career milestone for a beloved Cubbie

Presented by ZAMZOWS.

This Day In Sports…May 12, 1970:

Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub”, thrills the Wrigley Field crowd with his 500th career home run in a game against the Atlanta Braves.  Banks slugged 512 homers all told—he led the National League in dingers twice: in 1958 and 1960. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977 and was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. Banks was also the first Cub ever to have his number retired (his iconic No. 14) in 1982. He loved the game; you can still hear him saying, “Let’s play two!” Banks died in January of 2015 and didn’t get to see the Cubbies win the 2016 World Series.

You never hear enough about Banks, as he was sometimes overshadowed by the other superstars of his day—like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew. But he was right up there with them. Like Aaron and Mays, Banks started his pro career in the Negro Leagues before becoming the Cubs’ first Black player late in the 1953 season. He was runnerup for National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1954—then the 1955 season was his true breakout campaign as Banks slugged 44 home runs, five of them grand slams.  

The great Jackie Robinson paid Banks a visit when he made his debut in 1953. Robinson advised him to “just listen and learn.” Being quiet wasn’t Banks’ nature. When he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 from President Barack Obama, Banks said, “I kept my mouth shut but tried to make a difference. My whole life, I’ve just wanted to make people better.” After his retirement in 1971, Banks served as a community ambassador for the Cubs. It was a great fit for Banks and his bubbly personality, as he could connect with virtually any neighborhood in Chicagoland.

In his book “Mr. Cub,” Banks wrote, “My philosophy about race relations is that I’m the man and I’ll set my own patterns in life. I don’t rely on anyone else’s opinions. I look at a man as a human being; I don’t care about his color. Some people feel that because you are black you will never be treated fairly, and that you should voice your opinions, be militant about them. I don’t feel this way. You can’t convince a fool against his will…If a man doesn’t like me because I’m black, that’s fine. I’ll just go elsewhere, but I’m not going to let him change my life.”

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


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