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Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks Dies at 83

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FILE - In this 1970 file photo, Chicago Cubs' Ernie Banks poses. The Cubs announced Friday night, Jan. 23, 2015, that Banks had died. The team did not provide any further details. Banks was 83. (AP Photo/File)

In this 1970 file photo, Chicago Cubs’ Ernie Banks poses. The Cubs announced Friday night, Jan. 23, 2015, that Banks had died. The team did not provide any further details. Banks was 83. (AP Photo/File)

Mike Fitzpatrick, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

(AP)—Even as the Chicago Cubs lost one game after another, Ernie Banks never lost hope.

That was the charm of “Mr. Cub.”

Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who always maintained his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite decades of playing on miserable teams, died Friday night. He was 83.

The Cubs announced Banks’ death, but did not provide a cause.

Banks hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career and was fond of saying, “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.” In fact, that sunny finish to his famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field.

“His joyous outlook will never be forgotten by fans of the Cubs and all those who love baseball,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

And on a cold winter night Friday in Chicago, the ballpark marquee carried the sad news for the entire town to see: Ernie Banks. “Mr. Cub.” 1931-2015.

“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,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. 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.”

In a statement Saturday, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama expressed their condolences “to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him.” The president said Banks became known as much for his optimism and love of the game as his home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs.

“As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago,” President Obama said. “He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class — “Mr. Cub” — is ready to play two.”

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason. The Cubs, who haven’t won the World Series since 1908, finished below .500 in all but six of his seasons and remain without a pennant since 1945.

Still, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible, and was selected to baseball’s All-Century team in 1999.

“After hitting his 500th home run, Ernie summed up his feelings by saying: ‘The riches of the game are in the thrills, not the money.'” Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said in a statement. “That was the essence of Ernie Banks. There was no one who adored the Cubs and the city of Chicago more than Ernie.”

Banks’ infectious smile and non-stop good humor despite his team’s dismal record endeared him to Chicago fans, who voted him the best player in franchise history. One famous admirer, actor Bill Murray, named his son Homer Banks Murray.

In 2013, Banks was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — by Obama, a noted White Sox fan,. The award is one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

“Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago’s greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved — and lived for — the game of baseball,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two.”

Banks’ No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and it hangs on a flag from the left-field foul pole at the old ballpark.

“I’d like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers,” he once said. “That was what I always wanted to do.”

But even without an opportunity to play on the October stage, Banks left an indelible mark that still resonates with fans and athletes from all sports.

“Ernie Banks… We are going to all miss you. #Legend,” quarterback Russell Wilson tweeted as he and the Seattle Seahawks were getting ready to defend their Super Bowl title.

Banks was playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues when the Cubs discovered him in 1953, and purchased his contract for $10,000. He made his major league debut at shortstop on Sept. 17 that year, and three days later hit his first home run.

Tall and thin, Banks didn’t look like a typical power hitter. He looked even less so as he stood at the plate, holding his bat high and wiggling it as he waited for pitches. But he had strong wrists and a smooth, quick stroke, and he made hitting balls out of the park look effortless.

When he switched to a lighter bat before the 1955 season, his power quickly became apparent. He hit 44 homers that season, including three against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 4. His five grand slams that year established a major league record that stood for more than 30 years before Don Mattingly hit six in 1987.

Banks’ best season came in 1958, when he hit .313 with 47 homers and 129 RBIs. Though the Cubs went 72-82 and finished sixth in the National League, Banks edged Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for his first MVP award. He was the first player from a losing team to win the NL MVP.

Banks won the MVP again in 1959, becoming the first NL player to win it in consecutive years, even though the Cubs had another dismal year. Banks batted .304 with 45 homers and a league-leading 143 RBIs.

He led the NL in homers again in 1960 with 41, his fourth straight season with 40 or more. His 248 homers from 1955-60 were the most in the majors, topping even Aaron and Mays.

“Mr Cub. What you have done for the game of baseball the city of Chicago and everyone you have ever touched will never be forgotten. RIP,” tweeted Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Though Banks didn’t break the 40-homer barrier again after 1960, he topped the 100-RBI mark three more times, including 1969, his last full season. Then 38, he hit .253 with 23 home runs and 106 RBIs, and was chosen an All-Star for an 11th time.

On May 12, 1970, he hit his 500th home run at Wrigley Field, becoming only the eighth player at the time to reach the plateau.

Banks retired after the 1971 season. He owned most of the Cubs’ career slugging records, some of which still stand today.

Known mostly for his power at the plate, Banks was a solid fielder, too. He is best known as a shortstop, where he won a Gold Glove in 1960, but he switched to first base in 1962. He played 1,259 games at first and 1,125 games at shortstop.

Born and raised in Dallas, Banks would be bribed to play catch by his father, who always wanted him to be a baseball player. Banks grew to love the game and was a standout in high school, along with participating in football, basketball and track and field.

He joined a barnstorming Negro Leagues team at 17 and was spotted by Cool Papa Bell, who signed him to the Monarchs in 1950. Banks played one season before going into the Army. He returned to Kansas City after he was discharged, playing one more season before joining the Cubs.

“He was one of the great crossover baseball players of his day,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said. “His personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bay Area

Castlemont High Coach Launches “Books Before Balls” Project

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

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Tamikia McCoy/Photo Courtesy of Tanya Dennis

 

Michael Franklin

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

For two years, she played with the Running Rebels, an Oakland all-star basketball team.  After earning many degrees, McCoy returned to her beloved Castlemont as Coach in 2019, and quickly realized a responsibility to her students beyond winning games and created Books Before Balls.

Another Castlemont alumni of that same year was not as fortunate as McCoy.  Like McCoy, Michael Franklin was a basketball beast.  He was awarded first team All-City for the Oakland Athletic League 1993-1994 and was Northern California’s All American that same year. 

Franklin continues to hold the record for scoring 43 points in one quarter in a game against McClymonds. Tragically, he was killed Dec. 14, 2016, at a gas station at 98th and Edes in Oakland.

Coach McCoy’s concerns about violence inspired her to create the Books Before Balls Project to address academic and social gaps that are working against student success. 

“For violence and bullying to cease, the underlying reasons have to be addressed,” said McCoy, “Food scarcity may seem unrelated to violence, but it’s a signal that economic opportunities are lacking, which leads to trauma and desperation.”  

McCoy is also concerned that Castlemont’s library was closed and is spearheading a campaign to reopen and revitalize the library.  

She has joined with Oakland Frontline Healers and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkids movement to address issues of food scarcity, lack of economic opportunity, lack of resources and lack of support for students entering college.  

Together, they are creating a model that is duplicatable and hopefully will be adopted at other OUSD schools. Oakland Frontline Healers are a collaborative of 30 nonprofits and doctors offering services, food, and resources to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.  

Players and families will be tested weekly by Umoja Health before games, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for those that wish to take it.

With a grant from the Department of Violence Prevention, Building Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkidsmovement, are honoring Michael Franklin’s life by hosting a series of “Mike’s Knights” Basketball Tournaments at Castlemont High School beginning the last Friday in November.  

Participants will be paid stipends to participate in the league or cheer squad and will be tutored and mentored during the tournaments, which will include family forums to discuss ending violence in East Oakland.

Books Before Balls invites the community to donate to the organization to support the Lady Knights’ basketball team, the success program that funds first year college students, or join their initiative to reopen the library. 

 For more information contact:  Ladyknights2019@yahoo.com For youth interested in joining the eight-week tournament contact Adamika Village at adamikaadamika@gmail.com 

Together with school leaders and administrators, and with the support of Oakland Frontline Healers, Books Before Balls is staging a “Student’s Against Bullying” event Friday, Sept. 17 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

The Tragic Sports Abuse of Oakland

All 3 teams leaving?

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Spalding Basketball on a court; Photo courtesy of Sabri Tuzcu via Unsplash

Oakland is the most victimized sports city on the planet, and there is no close second.

And it’s not Oakland’s fault. Pirates, highwaymen and carpetbaggers have unified their heartless souls to rob Oakland of its championship, and fan-supported, sports existence. Under high crimes and misdemeanors, this is the highest crime in sports pilfering.

The Raiders are the only sports franchise to leave the same American city twice, despite sellout crowds before skipping off to Los Angeles, and sellout crowds again after their inglorious failure in Tinseltown. And now they’re off to Las Vegas, which, in time, might prove a worse investment than playing craps.

But, at least, the Raiders were homegrown, Oakland’s own. The Warriors came to Oakland from San Francisco, where the franchise was going broke, and built themselves up financially, with capacity attendance, as by winning three NBA championships in the short space of five years. After that, it was back across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, where this one-time dynastic bunch has found itself in serious slippage.

And, lastly, Oakland is one fleeing franchise short of a hat trick — all three of its teams taking flight. The last team still with an Oakland zip code, the Athletics, are looking at Las Vegas or — who knows? — the moon for a new home. This is the same franchise that bottomed out in Kansas City, after burning out in Philadelphia, and now is seeking to bury Oakland among its dearly departed.

It isn’t failure on the field of play that’s driving these teams elsewhere. Despite becoming a major-league sports town in 1960, a late start in sports economics, Oakland has produced 10 national championships. The A’s and Warriors have four titles apiece, and the Raiders have won two Super Bowls.

And it isn’t disappointment at the box office that these teams can use as an alibi. The Raiders and Warriors filled their facilities despite having long stretches of losing seasons, built on horrific draft picks. Jamarcus Russell, anyone? Joe Smith? The A’s haven’t drawn nearly as well as the other two tenants at the Oakland Coliseum Complex, but when you’re constantly trying to move to Fremont, Santa Clara, and now Las Vegas, why should local fans display loyalty?

I’ve been observing the Oakland sports scene closely since 1964 after gaining employment at the Oakland Tribune, which has left Oakland, too, with no relocation, no nothing. My arrival coincided with the building of the Coliseum and adjacent Arena in 1966, which was large-scale planning since the Raiders were the only team in town back then. The A’s moved here in 1968, and the Warriors in 1974. The Coliseum and Arena, over time, would be the last of the dual sports complexes in the country, but let it be known that it was the absolute best of its kind.

First, it was built in the middle of six Bay Area counties, with Contra Costa to the North, Santa Clara to the East, San Mateo to the South, San Francisco and Marin to the West, and Alameda County where the first shovel of dirt was dug for the complex itself.

Fortuitous still, the complex would be abutted in time by rapid transit (BART), a freeway, and railroad tracks, with an airport five minutes away. The Father of the Coliseum, the late Robert Nahas, was Einstein-like in his blueprints for the complex, and for Oakland’s future as a big-league, big-time sports town.

Adding to that image were the most loyal, passionate and, well, loony crazy fans. Oakland has the most abused fans in the universe in spite of fanaticism that couldn’t be rivaled anywhere. Who gets stepped on not once, but twice, by the black-attired, blackhearted Raiders and still professes loyalty. If the Raiders fail in Las Vegas, and they might eventually, the Coliseum in Oakland would fill up again. Nobody loves a team like Raider fans, bless their ravaged souls.

You mean the Raiders could come back to Oakland for a third go-around? If the Davis family is in charge, of course. Al, the father, was a user, and Mark, the son, a loser. Neither one of them, in all this time, has stuck their nose out for Oakland. They advertised little if all, they gave to charities nil, and they expected deference regardless throughout their penuriousness. There have been traitors replete throughout the history of organized sports, but nothing like the Davises, father and son: Benedict Arnold and Benedict Arnold Junior.

But as bad as they were, Oakland’s biggest problem, sadly, is Oakland itself. Oakland’s sports owners look at Oakland as a place to run from, rather than to grow with. Being situated across the Bay from San Francisco always has been Oakland’s detriment, dating back to early last century when Oakland native Gertrude Stein said of Oakland: “There’s no there there.” She said that after returning home from Paris and finding her old neighborhood changed, but historians took it as a slight on Oakland.

So the Warriors’ new ownership of Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber began packing up right away for San Francisco, but like other sports ownerships, myopically. Because, at that same juncture, Oakland suddenly came alive as a city commercially, more so than at any other time in history. New businesses, new buildings, new daytime choices, and new nighttime adventures suddenly spurted. Oakland had become, of all things, a boomtown.

Imagine that, while the thinking of the Raiders and Warriors ownerships could go “boom” in their faces. There is no rapid transit or railroad tracks abutting the stadium in Las Vegas, and there is limited parking next to the stadium, which means most fans will tailgate a mile away and take transit to the stadium. The Warriors have no rapid transit close by, no parking to speak of, and game tickets cost high-roller prices.

What was there in Oakland has been lost in franchise-and-fan togetherness in Las Vegas and San Francisco. And if the Raiders and Warriors start losing, which is immediately possible, who will want to mortgage homes and businesses to pay those exorbitant ticket prices? And if the A’s follow the Raiders to Las Vegas, it gets costlier because the A’s will need a domed stadium. You see, you can’t play baseball in 115-degree heat, for there’s nothing cool about that.

It just might turn out, for all three Oakland teams, that “there’s no there there” in their new digs.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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City Government

A New Mayor in 2022 Must Take Major Steps in Their First 100 Days

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

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Hands place ballot envelope into a ballot box/ Arnaud Jaegars via Unsplash

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

The mayor also selects and hires the city administrator, appoints members of key boards and commissions and sets the direction for the administrative branch of government, thus having a major impact on what action gets taken.

In recent years, the City Council has adopted numerous laws and funded positions and projects – many of which have not been implemented, such as providing gun tracing and cracking down on illegal guns, civilianizing special events, providing pro-active illegal dumping remediation, a public lands policy to prioritize affordable housing, direction to provide healthier alternative locations to respond to homelessness, and many more.

In order to ensure that we build a safer and healthier future for Oakland, it is vitally important to ensure that we elect leadership for the executive branch with the dedication and commitment to take the actions needed to fulfill the needs of our communities.  

With serious struggles facing our communities, it is vital that the next mayor take immediate action in their first hundred days – and so, I am undertaking to provide proposals regarding what the next mayor can, and should, do in their first 100 days in office.  

These efforts will need to include recruitment and retention for the workforce, effective relationships with county government and neighboring cities to solve common problems, working with stakeholders including to expand equitable economic development and housing for all income levels, presenting and passing proposals at Council and bringing in and properly stewarding the finances needed.  

Even within the first 100 days, a mayor can accomplish a great deal, including taking action to implement vitally needed services that already have Council authorization and thus can be brought about more quickly.

This is the first installment, listing of some of the first items that the next mayor can and should do to build a healthier Oakland, and which should be factors in our decision-making in the year ahead.

 

1.     Ensure implementation of the directive to prioritize stopping the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence, including implementing gun tracing, tracking and shutting down sources of illegal guns, and providing immediate response to shooting notifications.

2.     Remove blight and illegal dumping, implement pro-active removal of blight rather than waiting for complaints, incorporate blight removal throughout city efforts (rewards program, summer jobs program, etc).  Clear up backlog and establish a new normal that it is not okay to dump on Oakland.

3.     Provide healthier alternatives for homeless solutions, including safe parking/managed RV sites and sanitation/dump sites, to reduce public health risks. Partner with the County and others.

4.     Implement previously approved Council direction to switch to the use of civilians (rather than sworn police) to manage parades and special events.  Help ensure community and cultural events can go forward without excess costs undermining them. Strengthen the arts and economy and equity of event permitting system and ensure that expensive police resources are directed where they are needed, rather than wasted on watching parades.

5.     Implement previously approved public lands policy to ensure using public lands for public needs, with a priority for affordable housing.

6.     Make it easier for local residents and small businesses to grow, build and expand by providing coherent and simplified permitting and by implementing the Council-funded direction to provide evening and weekend hours and easy online access, to allow people to do projects like adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and make other renovations and construction projects more timely.

7.     Work with stakeholders and community to advance effective and equitable revitalization of the large public properties at and around the Oakland Coliseum, including with housing for all income levels, jobs and business development, sports and entertainment, conventions and hotels.

8.     Work to speed the filling of vacancies in needed city staff positions and improve recruitment, retention and local hiring, to help provide vitally needed services, including for cleanup, parks upkeep, gun tracing, and other needs.

9.     Fire prevention and climate resiliency.  Our region is facing growing dangers from climate change and fire risk, and we must take action to reduce and remedy risk and protect our communities with a more resilient future, including by planning for and starting fire prevention and brush remediation activities earlier in the year, improving brush removal on public land as well as private, fully staffing the fire department and improving public infrastructure to protect cleaner air and reduce risks.

10.  Job training and pathways.  Some industries face challenges finding enough prepared workers while many in our community also need access to quality jobs.  Support and connect job training programs and quality job policies with growing sectors and ensure Oaklanders are prepared for vital openings in needed jobs while allowing our community to thrive.

 

 

 

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