The Passing of the great Ernie Banks is a sobering look into a century of ineptitude. Not Ernie’s. He was the best shortstop of his era. Many say the best of all time. In his prime he may have been the best hitter in the league…which included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Orlando Cepeda and a number of other Hall Of Famers.
Banks, he of the magnificent temperament and dangerous bat, was the only shortstop of that slugging group. We tip our caps in deference to his greatness and we share the futility of that moribund franchise he so gallantly toiled for…alas, the Cubs.
Banks was born in 1931, and since then, the Cubs have made exactly one World Series appearance…that’s one, as in singular, uno… which of course they lost.
7 Facts: Alas The Cubs:
- The last time the Cubs were actually world champions was 1908. Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. The last time they were even in the World Series (which they lost to the Tigers) was 1945. Harry Truman had just succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt, and WWII had just ended.
- The Cubs play in baseball’s second oldest ballpark (Fenway is 2 years older), established in 1914. Guess how many World Series championship flags does Wrigley Field have flying over it? None, zippo, zero. (They have, however, lost 6 World Series there). Yes, the Cubbies have never won the series since they moved into Wrigley…when Woodrow Wilson was president, the same year that WWI began, and several years before the US entered the fray.
- In 69 seasons since 1945, the Cubs have finished above .500 on exactly 18 occasions…26% of the time. What is it with this franchise?
- Their ineptitude is so longstanding and ingrained that even Ernie (along with a great supporting cast including Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Kenny Holtzman, Randy Hundley, Glen Beckert, etc, and managed by Leo The Lip Durocher) couldn’t reel one in. (Thank you, 1969 Mets!) Please understand that since their last championship, there have been 23 presidential elections and 19 presidents*. The US has fought in two World Wars, in the freezing cold of Korea, in the streaming jungles of Vietnam, in the stinging deserts of the Gulf War, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the present War On Terror.
- It’s not the city that’s the problem. While it may not rival New York for championships, Chicago’s other teams have done reasonably well. Since the Cubs’ last world championship, The Chicago Blackhawks have won 5 championships, the Bulls 6, the Bears 8 NFL championships and a Super Bowl.
- To give you an idea of how ancient the last Cubs World Series triumph is, The American League was only 7 years old, Babe Ruth was 13, The NFL, the NBA did not exist. On the world stage, Thailand was Siam, The Soviet Union had neither been formed nor broken up. Russia was an empire ruled by the Czar. Japan was an empire ruled by the Shogun. Germany was an empire ruled by the Kaiser. Austria and Hungary were together as a conglomerate empire ruled by the Hapsburgs. The only independent countries in Africa were Ethiopia and Liberia. The South Pole hadn’t been reached.
- In baseball, the Yankees had not won even one of their 27 championships. In fact, they weren’t even the Yankees, but the Highlanders. In 1908 only 16 teams existed, including the Boston Braves, then called the Doves who would move to Milwaukee and subsequently Atlanta; Washington Senators (now the Twins), St. Louis Browns (now the Orioles), and the Philadelphia Athletics. The Giants were in the Bronx, not San Francisco, the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, not LA, and they were called The Superbas for some unfathomable reason. In 1908, 23 years before Ernie was born, Sam Crawford led the AL with 7 homers and someone named Tim Jordan led the NL with a whopping 12. In his prime, 12 homers was merely a good month for Ernie, not a steroid in sight.
So what hope for winning is there for the Cubbies who still play in that historic ballpark and enjoy (?) Baseball’s longest legacy of losing? How can they ever hoist a World Series flag over Wrigley when Hall Of Famers Banks, Santo, Williams, Jenkins, Hack Wilson, Gabby Hartnett, and Ryne Sandberg couldn’t? Not to mention Billy Madlock (.336 lifetime average with the Cubs) and much the loved, much maligned Andre Dawson. Somewhere, some time, maybe not soon, but hopefully before another century dawns, the World Series flag will be unfurled on the North side of Chicago and the rallying cry of baseball’s warmest and most genuine ambassador, the great Ernie Banks will be heard: Let’s play two!
William Howard Taft
Warren G. Harding
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
George H. Bush
George W. Bush