April 5, 2020

You Can Bank on It

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

In 1967, Louis Armstrong recorded “What a Wonderful World.” Do you think Armstrong naturally believed that about everything? Most likely not, but he made a decision to view life with optimism. While Armstrong dazzled the jazz circuit, Ernie Banks shared a similar view on the baseball diamond. “Let’s play two,” Banks said.

A combination of talent and outlook made Armstrong and Banks enduring figures. This week, check out Phil Rogers’ “Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub and the Summer of ’69.”

Read this book because:

1. Ernie Banks beat out Hank Aaron and Willie Mays for back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards.

From 1955-60, Banks averaged 41 home runs and 115 RBI at shortstop. By winning the MVP in 1958 and 59, Banks became the first National Leaguer to capture consecutive MVPs. Rob Neyer cites Hank Sauer, who received the ’52 MVP while playing for a fifth-place Cubs squad. Furthermore, Neyer recognizes that there were no big run producers in those seasons. Who more deserving than Banks?

2. Banks’ attitude set him apart and set him up to be an ambassador for the Cubs and baseball.

Some people question Banks’ perpetual smile. They weren’t with him when he chose to make it a part of himself growing up. Born in the Depression, Banks learned to share everything. He worked a variety of jobs as a child. The one he remembers with the most affection is crawling to pick cotton from sun up to sun down. Why? Because he got to spend time with his father.

Years later, it seemed like Leo Durocher did all he could to deter Banks. Banks’ response? “I kind of killed them with kindness.” (13, Ernie). That, and he used Durocher’s derision to make him better.

3. Banks played his final Cubs game like he played his first.

During Banks’ career, the Cubs averaged less than one day a year in first place after the season’s initial month. It didn’t matter. He was in love with baseball and he didn’t care who knew it. “Are you inspired?” Banks asked Tim McCarver on Sept. 26, 1971. “Now I know that you’re crazy, Banks,” McCarver said. “Inspired. You must be inspired,” Banks chirped. (230).

Whoever listens to Ernie Banks can’t help but be inspired too.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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