Aside from Honus Wagner, no shortstop in baseball history could hit like Ernie Banks. Immensely popular with the fans - his nickname said it all - he delighted the Wrigley faithful for 19 years. The first black player on the Cubs, his sunny disposition was legendary, and he will probably remain the most popular player the Cubs have ever had.
From 1955 to 1960, Banks hit more homers than anyone in the majors, including Mantle, Mays, and Aaron. Early in his career, his fielding was erratic - he committed error totals of 34, 22, 25 and a league-leading 32 between 1955 and 1958 but he worked diligently to become a steady fielder. In 1959, he cut the number of errors down to 12 (then a record for shortstops), and led NL shortstops in fielding in both 1960 (he won a Gold Glove) and 1961. He led National League shortstops in assists twice and in fielding percentage 3 times; he actually played more games at first base than he did at short (1,259 to 1,125), because the Cubs moved him to first in 1962 to prolong his career.
He belted 512 home runs in his career, 5 times hitting over 40 in a single season - both are highs for major league shortstops, as is his .500 career slugging percentage. Banks hit a record 5 grand slams in 1955 and his 47 taters in 1958 are the most ever by a shortstop in a single season. He won the National League MVP in consecutive years (1958 and 1959), and led the National League in home runs twice (1958 and 1960) and in RBI twice (1958 and 1959). For all that, his most significant contribution to baseball may be this, my all-time favorite baseball quote:
"Let's play two!"
— Ernie Banks
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