A week ago tomorrow, all baseball fans felt the loss of another giant in the world of sports. Ernie Banks was much more than just an ambassador of the game because he carried the ultimate title for his franchise. Banks will always be known as Mr. Cub in much the same way that Stan is The Man. The difference between the pair of Hall of Famers, however, has divided households for generations.
As this is my introductory post, it would be rude not to provide some background to get to know each other. Sports have always been a talking point in my family, even though my brother and I fall on different sides of the aisle. He bleeds Cubbie blue and as fate would have it lives just down the way from Wrigley or whatever it will be called once ‘renovations’ are complete. Our father raised us without judgment but his stories about Bob Gibson and watching games at Busch II was all I needed to support the St. Louis brand of baseball.
You see, as a third generation fan of the greatest game, I have been fortunate to witness quite a few battles between the Cubs and the Cards over the last 30+ years. Before that my Grandfather passed on stories of the great Musial battling with Banks and more times than not seeing his beloved Birds on the Bat come out on top. Those stories have kept me going over the lean years that now seem few and far between but no one can predict what the next chapter holds.
Much like the late 1980’s into the early 90’s when it was Ozzie vs. Ryno, the timing is right for Chicago to produce another challenge to the throne. It is easy to look at only championships or even the most recent history of the rivalry, but the spirit of Mr. Cub will play a role in what happens next. Ernie had an amazing career that even I was shocked by some of the numbers that spanned from the 1950’s until the 70’s. He spent the entirety of his career swatting balls out of Wrigley but did it from four different positions, including arguably the most impressive offensive run by any shortstop in the game.
From 1957 – 1960, Banks crushed no fewer than 41 home runs and averaged 122 RBIs while winning a pair of MVP trophies. He then spent some time in the outfield before following Musial’s lead and patrolling first base over the last half of his amazing career. An 11-time All-Star recipient, Banks had to settle for that showcase as his Cubs mustered only 5th place finishes in both of his MVP campaigns. Finishing off his Hall of Fame career in style, Banks joined the 500 Home Run club at Wrigley but never played in the postseason.
In many ways the longstanding animosity between supporters of the Cardinals and Cubs can be excused this Winter as both franchises experienced losses. But as any loyal fan knows, that grieving period will end April 5th when St. Louis visits Wrigley in what is shaping up to be a proper sendoff to the one and only Mr. Cub.