Ernie Banks, known simply as “Mr. Cub” after hitting 512 home runs over a 19-year career spent entirely in Chicago, died Friday night at 83.
Best known for his effusive “Let’s Play Two” phrase that epitomized the joy he felt for the game and brought to Wrigley Field, Banks was an 11-time All-Star, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and won consecutive National League MVP awards in 1958-59. Yet, he never appeared in a postseason game, toiling for Chicago Cubs teams that famously finished in the bottom half of the National League in his first 14 seasons. His 277 home runs as a shortstop rank second in baseball history to Cal Ripken Jr.
Banks’ death was confirmed by the Cubs on Friday night. Banks would have turned 84 on Jan. 31.
In 1977, Banks was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, but that simple honor hardly explained the greater significance he had for baseball fans in the Second City and beyond. In 2013, Banks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, alongside former President Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and others.