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Chicago Jerseys Retired - Number 14, Ernie Banks Ernie Banks, known fondly as Mr. Cub, was an excellent ball player, if not among the greatest. As a power hitter, he is ranked number 21 on the list of career home runs with 512. His .274 batting average is number 762 on the all-time list. His 1,636 RBI's place him 26th on the all-time list. As a shortstop, he had excellent range but made a lot of errors, especially early in his career. Later, when he moved from shortstop to first base, he did well. Over the course of his career, he was a fourteen-time All-Star and a two-time MVP Award winner. And the MVP Awards were especially noteworthy since he played for a losing team both years. In 1958, the first year that he won the MVP Award, he led the league in home runs, RBI's, total bases and extra-base hits. His .313 batting average was sixth in the National League, behind Richie Ashburn, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Bob Skinner. But his team, the Chicago Cubs, placed fifth in the league and, with a .468 record, finished the season 20 games behind the Milwaukee Braves. Then, in 1959, when he was named MVP again, his 143 RBI's were 18 more than any other player in baseball. And again, he won from a losing team. That year, the Cubs finished in sixth place with a .481 record, 13 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Banks had streaks of power hitting. He hit more than 40 home runs in each of the seasons from 1955 through 1960. Only two Chicago Cubs players had hit 40 homers in a season before that. And for more than thirty years he held the record for most grand slams in a season with five, having reached that goal in 1955. In addition to streaks of power hitting, he had streaks of games played. He still holds the National League record for consecutive games played from the start of a player's career, from the time that he entered the Major Leagues in 1953 until he broke his hand in 1956. That streak was 424 games. When he came back from his injury, Banks had another 716 consecutive game streak from 1956 until 1961. In fact, he still holds the club record for most games played by any player at 2,528. The same statistic earns him a second credential, too: Most games played by any player who never made it to the post-season. That's what happens to a player who spends his entire career with a team known as the "Loveable Losers." He also continues to hold Cubs records with 9,421 at-bats, 4,706 total bases and 1,009 extra-base hits. In the early 1960's, he encountered knee injuries that had an impact on his career and his statistics. To accommodate his sore knees, he moved from shortstop to first base. He played 1,125 games at shortstop and 1,259 at first. But he still has the reputation as a shortstop. That may be because he played his most successful seasons at that position. In fact, when Banks was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1977, he was inducted as a shortstop. The first African-American to play with the Cubs, he was also the first to have his jersey retired by the team. Since that happened in 1982, the Cubs have retired three other Chicago jerseys. Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg are the others to have their jerseys retired. And the Cubs, along with the rest of MLB, have retired number 42, Jackie Robinson's jersey. The truth about Ernie Banks is that, even now, decades after his retirement, he continues to be very beloved by the fans. That is partly because he was always enthusiastic about the game. He is known by two affectionate nicknames, "Mr. Cub" and "Mr. Susnshine." "It's a beautiful day for a ball game," he was known for saying. "Let's play two." So on Opening Day, 2008, his career was celebrated with a statue in front of Wrigley Field. The statue shows Banks in his batting crouch, wearing his Chicago uniform and his Chicago hat, standing on a pedestal inscribed with his slogan. "Let's play two." Kathleen Hobbins is an internet entrepreneur in Chicago and an enthusiastic baseball fan. Having grown up in Boston before moving to Chicago, she enjoys an embarrassment of riches -- three home-town teams.
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