Tuesday, January 26, 2016

#15 Ernie Banks - Chicago Cubs

Ernest Banks
Chicago Cubs

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  180
Born:  January 31, 1931, Dallas, TX
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs a free agent in 1953
Major League Teams:  Chicago Cubs 1953-1971
Died:  January 23, 2015, Chicago, IL (age 83)
Hall of Fame Induction:  1977

Known by most simply as "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks enjoyed a 19-year playing career and encapsulated everything that a baseball player should aspire to be.  His genuine appreciation and affection for the game was unrivaled.  Banks was the runner-up to Wally Moon (#55) in 1954 for the National League Rookie of the Year Award and he won the league's MVP honors in 1958 and 1959.  An 11-time All-Star, Banks hit 512 career home runs and tallied 1,636 career RBIs.  He excelled defensively at both shortstop (1953-1961) and first base (1962-1971).  When he hit his 500th career home run on May 12, 1970, he became just the ninth member to join that exclusive club.

During his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1977, he repeated his famous quote, "There's sunshine, fresh air, and the team's behind us.  Let's play two."

Building the Set
Dad - Christmas 1997

December 25, 1997 from San Diego, CA - Card #160
This was my big Christmas present from my parents in 1997.  Like the Ted Williams (#5) card I received for Christmas 1993, my parents had a (fortunate for me) habit of splurging on a "big" baseball card to leave under the Christmas tree for me.  My Dad was always proud of his haggling abilities and soon after opening this card, he was quick to tell me that he had paid $64 for the card after negotiating down the price with an employee of Kit Young Cards.  (I probably joked with him afterwards that the starting price had been $67.)

Our copy of this card is gorgeous with four sharp corners, a well-centered front and not a scratch or blemish to be found.

The Card
I was going to research to try to figure out when the action shot took place, but someone has already done the research for me.  In a post over at the Vintage Baseball Card Blog, William Szczepanek determined that the two players congratulating Banks are #37 Gene Baker (#142 in the set) and #4 Ted Tappe.

Banks hit two grand slams in 1955 scoring both Baker and Tappe.  The first was on May 11th off Russ Meyer (#227) of the Dodgers (also scoring Randy Jackson - #223) and the second was on May 29th off Lew Burdette (#219) of the Braves (also scoring Bob Speake - #66).  Unless someone has access to the Topps archives, we'll probably never know if this photo is Banks' grand slam from May 11th or May 29th.

For the record, these grand slams were the 27th and the 31st of Banks' career and his five grand slams in 1955 set a record at the time.  The record has since been tied and then broken by Jim Gentile (5 in 1961), Don Mattingly (6 in 1987), Richie Sexson (5 in 2006), Travis Hafner (6 in 2006) and Albert Pujols (5 in 2009).  With 277 career home runs as a shortstop, Banks still holds the National League record at that position, but Cal Ripken, Jr. is now the overall leader at shortstop with his 345 home runs.

The second panel mentions that Banks had no professional experience upon joining the Cubs in 1953. However, Banks had been a member of the Kanas City Monarchs in 1950 and 1953 (before and after a two-year stint in the Army) and barnstormed with the Jackie Robinson All-Stars in 1951.  Along with Robinson (#30), the young Banks had the opportunity to play alongside of Roy Campanella (#101), Don Newcombe (#235) and Larry Doby (#250).

1956 Season
Banks was just hitting his stride in 1956.  At 25 years old, Banks made his second All-Star game. He'd finish the season with 28 home runs and 85 RBIs, although he'd miss 18 games with a hand infection breaking his consecutive game streak of 424 games.  His beloved Cubs were awful in 1956, finishing in last place in the league with a record of 60-94.

1954 Topps #94
1971 Topps #525
1973 Topps #81
2015 Topps Stadium Club #13
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #94
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #94
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1971 Topps #525
First & Last Topps Card (as a coach):  1973 Topps #81
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  2011 Topps #247B SP
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2015 Topps Stadium Club #13

Banks also appeared in the 1975 Topps set with two cards in the MVP subset to celebrate his 1958 and 1959 awards.

1,563 - Banks non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/25/16

Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
National Baseball Hall of Fame
The Phillies Room
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.


  1. Wow - great conditioned card!

  2. You have some really sharp cards.