A Biography in 1,000 Players No. 104 Ernie Banks (Number 11 Shortstop)

Probably should be a tossup between Banks and Pee Wee Reese who should be 10th, but I moved Banks ahead of George Davis and didn’t want to do too much movement. When Banks was a shortstop, he hit like a good hitting first baseman and when he was at first base, he hit like a good hitting shortstop. Banks played first base 10 years after he played shortstop for 9 years and baseball reference has him as a below average player those 10 years. For six years (1955-1960) he was a star, and you couldn’t ask anymore out of a player. In 1961 he was still a solid player. However, in 1961 along with his move to first base he never again had an all-star type of season. He played in the all-star game a few times, but that was a remembrance of things past.

When Ernie was in his prime, he hit 40 home runs 4 straight years, leading the league twice. That must be nice to have a shortstop a league leading homerun hitter in a league with May, Mathews and Aaron.

In 1966 the Cubs being bad for years, hired Leo Durocher as a manager. Leo was a good manager, but Leo was also a great publicist for Leo Durocher. He and Ernie didn’t get along. Leo said some nasty things about Ernie not wanting to play. However, when you look at Ernie’s record, he 150 games or more three straight years for Leo. This was at ages 36 to 38.  Not only that he knocked in 280 runs those three years. In 1969 Banks had 106 RBIs. The man was playing. He might not have been what he once was, but he was in there trying. Durocher also criticized Ron Santo in his book, which we will discuss in our next article. At least Durocher was smart enough to like Billy Williams.

One thing that did happen was Durocher did have the team playing better. Under Durocher the Cubs played over .500 six years in a row, including the year he was fired.  The previous time the Cubs were above .500 two years in a row was 1945 and 1946, over 20 years. After Durocher left the Cubs didn’t play over .500 two years in a row until 2003 and 2004.



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