By Freddy Berowski
On Jan. 31, the Hall of Fame will wish Happy Birthday to three of our own.
Ernie Banks will turn 79. Although his beloved Cubbies, a perennial second-division team during his tenure there, never made it to the World Series, it was not because of Mr. Cub, who did everything he could year after year to try to get them there. A 12-time All-Star and two-time NL MVP, Banks hit more than 500 home runs and drove in more than 1,600 runs in his 19 seasons playing first base and shortstop with Chicago’s North-Siders.
Also celebrating his birthday is the all-time Major League strikeout king, and current president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express will celebrate his 63rd birthday. Although his birthday is officially January 31, Ryan seems to have received an early birthday present when his ownership group was recently selected to purchase his home state’s AL franchise, the Texas Rangers.
Rounding out the trio of birthday boys is Jackie Robinson. The only man with his uniform number retired across Major League Baseball, Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Although he passed away in 1972, Jackie Robinson will be remembered by many on what would have been his 91st birthday.
There are 292 Hall of Famers and 365 days in a calendar year, yet there are more than a dozen dates on the calendar that celebrate the birthday of three Hall of Famers. In fact, May 14 is the day of the year with the most Hall of Famer birthdays: Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, Tony Perez, JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez.
October is the month that has the most Hall of Famer birthdays – 36. And three Hall of Famers passed away on their birthday – Joe Tinker, Gabby Hartnett and Bucky Harris.
A pair of baseball’s former home run kings will have the anniversaries of their births marked next week. Hank Aaron will turn 76 Feb, 5, and Feb. 6 will mark 115th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth.
Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.