When you think of the Golden Era of baseball, you think of baseball players like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, and Ernie Banks. Ernie Banks was the third African-American player to play in baseball; the first two were Jackie Robinson (1947- Brooklyn Dodgers) and Monte Irvin (1949- New York Giants). Ernie Banks ended up playing for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 until 1971. When he was playing was still a time when ballplayers were loyal to one team and would play for twenty plus years.
Also, he came up during a very promising time for baseball as he came up around the same time as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays who along with Ernie Banks have gone down as legends in baseball. So there has been some times where Ernie Banks’ contributions are overlooked solely on the fact of the amount of talent and competition he had while he was playing.
For starters, Ernie Banks was a two-time MVP in 1958 and 1959. Back then due to the contest in the National League of Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Stan Musial, and so on, you had to have excellent numbers to win the MVP. Throw in the fact he won it in back to back years; Ernie Banks needed to perform at high levels. Also for a good majority of Ernie Banks’ career, he would end up playing 150 plus games a year which was something that is not seen in baseball today. Throw in the fact that he played for over two decades; it took a lot of toll on his body. When you look at baseball now in 2016, you are lucky if you see a player that can play 120 games.
He would also go ahead and play in eleven All-Star games between playing shortstop and first baseman towards the end of his career. The big part that people need to realize is that back when you had players like Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, and Duke Snider you needed to play at a high level because the mediocre play would not have covered it. Another thing that he has that is not done often in baseball now is that he has 512 homers which would put him 23rd on the All-Time list.
The biggest thing that made Ernie Banks a legend in the world of baseball and the Cubs organization is that he was “Mr. Cub.” It seems that every team has that one player who is the face of their organization. It is a big thing to be called the face of an organization and one of the faces of an entire era in baseball. You could make an argument without a doubt that Ernie Banks can be on both a Mount Rushmore of players from the 1950’s and African- American players.
However, while Ernie Banks had a great career, he still had a rough time being that he was an African-American player in a game that was prominently white for a while. Although there were African Americans who entered the National League before Ernie Banks in Jackie Robinson and Monte Irvin, it was still rough for them early on. There were the countless amount of times where fans were known to throw things at the players like Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, and Hank Aaron.
It should be noted that the guys who did not allow it to affect were the ones who made an impact on this game. Ernie Banks became Mr. Cub because he owned many of the records in the Cubs history and kept the Cubs relevant for the years that the Cubs did not make the playoffs.
Overall, Ernie Banks had a huge impact on the game of baseball and the Chicago Cubs organization. He was a great player back when he played and only gets overlooked because of who else was playing when he did. This is the one time that being overlooked was a good thing because MLB had a ton of talent in the 1950’s. There is a reason why the 50s are known as the Golden Age of Baseball.