It’s already happened twice today. First with Betty White, and then just now with Ernie Banks. Thankfully, neither passed away. White won a give-it-to-her-she’s-old acting award, and Banks turned 80 years old today.
To celebrate the birthday, Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune wrote a heartfelt piece on why Ernie Banks is the greatest Chicago baseball player of all-time. Considering the development paths of most Major League Baseball players today, it seems almost impossible that Banks, who attended a school with only a softball team in an area without Little League, didn’t even play proper baseball before becoming a professional.
Banks was a true, old-fashioned natural born superstar. He got to Wrigley Field at age 22 after only two full seasons of baseball, both with the legendary Kansas City Monarchs in the era when the Negro leagues were dying, and flirted with three consecutive Most Valuable Player years before his 30th birthday. He was the National League’s MVP in 1958 and ’59 and could have won again in ’60 when he led the league in home runs and intentional walks.
Chicago Sports Memories also wondered who was the best Chicago baseball player, but on a less sentimental date during the summer. They used Bill James’ rankings of baseball players as a guide, including every player who ever dressed in a Chicago uniform, but if you narrow the requirements to only include ballplayers who spent eight years or more in the Windy City, Mr. Cub remains in the argument, ranking fifth.
1. Eddie Collins, White Sox 1915-1926
2. Grover Alexander, Cubs 1918-1926
3. Ryne Sandberg, Cubs 1982-1994, 1996-1997
4. Frank Thomas, White Sox 1990-2005
5. Ernie Banks, Cubs 1953-1971
Banks isn’t the only baseball legend whose birthday is being celebrated today. Both Jackie Robinson and Nolan Ryan were also born on January 31st.
This means that in addition to tying your son’s right arm to his body so that he becomes a “natural” lefty, you can also increase his chances of becoming a Major League Baseball player by attempting to conceive him near the end of May.