Ernie Banks, the legendary Chicago Cubs baseball player and Hall of Famer, died at age 83 on Friday night in Chicago, a spokesperson for his family said.
Ernie Banks poses July 5, 1955 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (AP)
Known as “Mr. Cub,” he played shortstop and firstbase for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971, netting 512 home runs and 1,636 RBIs. He was known for always being upbeat and eager to play, often heard saying, “Let’s play two!” Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Banks in 2013, “I just remember Ernie was never in a bad mood.”
Banks first played in the Negro leagues, and became the first black player to play for the Cubs. He started out his pro-ball career with a bang, hitting .314 in his first season, and then came in second for Rookie of the Year voting. He would spend his whole career with the team, endearing himself to the city. In a Chicago Sun-Times poll conducted in 1969, he was voted the “Greatest Cub Ever.”
Banks was honored as an All-Star fourteen times, and was named the National League MVP in 1958 and 1959. He later became the first player to have his number retired by the Cubs. Banks was inducted into the Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977.
— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) January 24, 2015
In November 2013, Banks was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, the highest honor awarded to civilians, the Sun Times reported.
President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Hall of Fame baseball player Ernie Banks in the East Room at the White House on November 20, 2013. (Getty)
Ernie Banks acknowledges the fans prior to Game Three of the National League Divisional Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field on October 6, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. (Getty)
Banks was born in Dallas in 1931, and had 10 siblings. He would have turned 84 on Saturday.
Ernie Banks throws out the first pitch before the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on May 15, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Getty)
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts released the following statement 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. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And 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.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.