(Banks at a 2008 statue dedication ceremony)
Hall of Fame baseball legend Ernie Banks died Friday, Jan 23, according to family attorney Mark Bogen. He was 83.
Though a cause of death has not been released Bogen told reporters “his death was not expected.”
Banks became the first Black player on the Chicago Cubs upon breaking into the majors in 1953 after a short stint with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. He played his entire career with Cubs and retired in 1971. So beloved by fans and the city in general, he earned the nickname “Mr. Cub.”
“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts in a statement. “He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.”
He was voted the “Greatest Cub Ever” in a 1969 fan poll. An 11-time All-Star amassing a total of 512 home runs in his career, Banks was no-brainer for induction into the Hall of Fame in 1977.
After his career ended, Banks remained a fixture around Chicago. Last year he made headlines when he popped up on stage at a concert for the rock group Pearl Jam.
2013 also marked another milestone in his life. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. “To have this award passed on to me is certainly a great joy,” he told CNN. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
“Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago’s greatest ambassadors,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “He loved this city as much as he loved — and lived for — the game of baseball.”
Banks would have turned 84 on Jan. 31.