Baseball loses a legend: Ernie Banks dies at 83

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Banks1969

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

“Mr. Cub” is now undoubtedly playing two.

Ernie Banks, the face of the Chicago Cubs for nearly 20 years as a player and for decades after that, died Friday night. He was 83.

A two-time MVP and 14-time All-Star, Banks was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1977 after a 19-year career spent all with the Cubs. He retired with 512 home runs and 1,636 RBI — a career where his statistics were as matched by his enthusiasm for being at the ballpark, his “Let’s play two!” phrase one that identified a career. Banks was named to the MLB All-Century Team in 1999, and, in 2013, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was that attitude and perseverance that was noted by the Commander in Chief as the baseball legend received the highest civilian honor.

“That’s ‘Mr. Cub’ — the man who came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day, and became the first black player to suit up for the Cubs and one of the greatest hitters of all time,” said President Barack Obama. “In the process, Ernie became known as much for his 512 home runs as for his cheer and his optimism, and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way.”

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Banks made his MLB debut in at age 22 1953 after playing for the Kansas City Monarchs and serving in the military. He joined the 500 Home Run Club in 1970 at age 39, his next-to-last season.

A steady presence on cardboard as he was on the field, Banks had been a regular on the autograph show circuit — regularly signing at the National Sports Collectors Convention — as well as a signer for trading card companies. He appears on 3,599 different cards in the Beckett database and 943 of those are certified autographs. In all, his card collection is valued at $61,524 excluding rarities.

Banks’ lone Rookie Card appears in the 1954 Topps set — a release that also includes debuts for fellow sluggers Hank Aaron and Al Kaline. Banks is topped only by the former career home run leader when it comes to value in the set. His final card as an active player appears in the 1971 Topps set.

“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,” said Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts 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.”

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

ERNIE BANKS TOPPS GALLERY
Here are all of Banks’ basic Topps cards created during his career — a collection that begins with 1954 and ends with 1971.

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6 comments

  1. Jonathan W. Iwanski 24 January, 2015 at 08:59

    I cannot recall the last time I felt this way about the passing of someone I’d never met.

    Lifetime Cubs Fan,
    Jonathan W. Iwanski

  2. charles henn 24 January, 2015 at 09:51

    GREAT GREAT MAN AS WELL AS A GREAT BALL PLAYER
    SAW HIM IN PERSON AT THIS YEARS HALL OF FAME INDUCTION
    WHILE GROWING UP I ALWAYS GOT EXCITED WHEN HE CAME TO PLATE
    SAW HIM PLAY FIRST BASE THAN SHORTSTOP AT THE END OF HIS PLAYING DAYS

  3. Paul Angilly 24 January, 2015 at 12:39

    My condolances to Cubs fans everywhere … a truly great man.

    That 1969 Topps card is iconic in my mind because it was one of the first vintage cards I ever owned as a little kid of a real BB legend (I started collecting in 1975 and when I was about 8-9, I only had maybe a couple dozen cards made before that year, and the 1969 Banks was one of them). Looking over the gallery here, I still think it’s the best card ever made of him during his playing days (amazing how much better the same pic looks on his 1969 card, compared to the 1968 card).

  4. Matt 24 January, 2015 at 16:33

    Baseball has been that all much the better because of Ernie Banks. He is truly among the greats of the game. Couldn’t get over of how revered he was on my visit to Wrigley many years ago. Being a life long Red Sox fan, I really understand how Cubs fans feel about their legends, especially this guy!!! Baseball desperately needs many more like him but there will always be only one ” Mr. Cub”! My condolences to his family, friends and all his fans everywhere.

  5. Zeprock 25 January, 2015 at 08:54

    Sorry the Cubbies didn’t win it all in your lifetime Ernie. Undoubtedly you can now provide divine intervention to make that dream come true for so many Chicagoans. You will be missed. Thanks for the memories. -A Red Sox fan

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