By Tracy Allen
CALL Staff Writer
Buck O’Neil once called him a son that he never had in real life.
For O’Neil, the former Negro Leagues baseball manager for the Kansas City Monarchs and a coach for Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, his young prodigy who for thousands became “Mr. Cub”, having Ernie Banks under his tutelage not only was a privilege but a chance once again to prove that black baseball players could succeed at the Major League level.
While Banks didn’t have nearly the same impact entering the Majors like former Monarch and baseball legend Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers once did, Banks no doubt paved a pathway of success for many black players coming from the Negro Leagues to follow.
And it is why Banks, who died Friday, Jan. 23, of a heart attack, at age 83, will be remembered for not only what he meant to Chicago and Major League baseball fans and black baseball enthusiasts, but also, his role in his short, but impressive career as a member of the Negro Leagues’ Monarchs.
Funeral services for Banks will be held Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, just off Michigan avenue.
“Mr. Cub” was impressive in the Majors. He hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career in professional baseball, all with the Cubs. He had five seasons where he hit 40 or more homers. Banks, who never played in a post-season game, was also a two-time National League MVP, 11-time All Star and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1977, in his first year of eligibility!
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