Ernie Banks hits 400th career home run
By Thomas Lawrence
Mr. Cub brightened an otherwise challenging season of “lovable losing” for Chicago Cubs fans 44 years ago today.
Taking on lefty Curt Simmons and the rival Cardinals on Sept. 2, 1965, Ernie Banks and the Cubs were simply trying to finish strong in a season in which they were 63-73 heading into play on that day.
After two scoreless frames at the plate for the Cubs, they manufactured a run and had future Hall of Famer Billy Williams and teammate Ron Santo on base for Banks.
An influential member of the post-Jackie Robinson era of African-American stars in Major League Baseball, and a former Negro leaguer himself with the Kansas City Monarchs, Banks stepped to the plate against Simmons looking to give the Cubbies a bigger lead, with the potential to set one of his many career milestones.
Banks promptly blasted the ball into the bleachers at Wrigley Field like he had so many times before. It was home run No. 400 for Banks, making him only the 11th player to join that club at the time – and only the second African American to do so, along with “The Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays.
Banks was also the first to join the home run club as a Cub, and is still one of only four former Cubs in the 500 home run club along with Sammy Sosa, Jimmie Foxx and Rafael Palmeiro.
“Without (Banks), the Cubs would finish in Albuquerque,” said Jimmie *****, the manager of the White Sox from 1934-46.
Banks and the Cubs never reached the postseason during his 19 big league seasons. In 1965, the year of his historic 400th homer, the Cubs finished in eighth out of 10 in the NL with a .444 winning percentage.
But Banks certainly did his part to bring a pennant to Chicago. He is still No. 1 all-time in franchise history in games played (2,528), total bases (4,706) and extra base hits (1,009).
Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 in his first year eligible.
Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.