Ernie Banks died today at the age of 83. When I first began following baseball as a compulsion during the late 1950s, when the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles, Ernie was the best player in the National League, even better, I thought, than Willie Mays, whose performance was tarnished in my mind because he played for the hated Giants. But Banks was then the only power-hitting shortstop in baseball, hitting 40 homers seemingly every season, and driving in over 100 runs every year as well. Eventually he was to move to first base, but not until he had won two consecutive National League MVP awards.
|His run-producing ability on bad teams - the Cubs in those season finished next to last every season, only ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies, the only major league team worse than them - was legendary, and the subject of one of the greatest baseball lines ever uttered in the context of calling a ball game, and one of the greatest lines ever said by baseball's all-time greatest announcer, the Dodgers' Vin Scully, still going strong himself at 87 and soon to begin his 66th||
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It was late in the season, back around 1959 or 1960, or sometime around there. The Cubs were mired, as usual, in seventh place in the eight-team National League, and the Cubs were a woeful mess, except for Ernie Banks, who was having his usual great season. At one point when he came to the plate, Scully remarked that the Cubs leadoff hitter was batting something like .220, and that their second place hitter was hitting around .230, but yet, Banks was leading the league in runs batted in, with over 100. Scully then remarked that Ernie Banks “must be driving in ghosts”.
Rest in Peace, Ernie, there will never be anyone else like you.