Chicago Cubs' Top 10 of the Past Century: No. 7, Ernie Banks' Back-to-Back MVPs
There's a reason why Ernie Banks is nicknamed "Mr. Cub."
Not only did Banks spend his entire 19-year career within the Friendly Confines; he did so while being an outstanding hitter, all-around player, and one the hardest-working players in baseball history.
In the 1958 and 1959 seasons, Banks won back-to-back MVP awards, something that was never done by Cub before, and has yet to be repeated.
In 1958, Banks hit .313, with a career high 47 home runs and 129 RBI. He also set career highs with 193 hits and 119 runs scored.
Banks led the league that season in home runs, RBI, at-bats, game played, total bases, slugging percentage, and was sixth in batting average and second in runs scored.
At age 27, Banks beat out Giants legend Willie Mays for the MVP with 16 first place votes versus three for Mays.
That season, the Cubs were 72-82, fifth in the National League, which had only eight teams.
Banks returned in 1959 with similar success. His average dipped to .304, but he still managed 45 home runs, and a career high 143 RBI. He had 179 hits and just 97 runs scored, but raised his on-base percentage from .366 to .374.
Banks also improved his fielding percentage from .960 to .985, but did not win a Gold Glove. His first and only Gold Glove was won in 1960, with a .977 fielding percentage.
That season, Banks led the NL in RBI, games played, and intentional walks. He was second in home runs and slugging, eight in runs scored, and 10th in batting average.
The Cubs improved their record that season to 74-80, but still finished fifth in the NL.
Despite his team's record, and trailing in all major MVP categories, Banks beat Eddie Matthews out for the award by a 10-5 first-place vote, and 232-189 total point count.
Matthews played in Milwaukee, and they finished second in the NL that season.
In both seasons, Banks was the starting shortstop on the All-Star team. He went on to make 14 All-Star teams in total.
It was Banks' desire to play the game that makes him one of the most beloved Cubs of all-time. He loved the game so much that he became known for his catch phrase, "Let's Play Two."
On opening day, 2008, the Cubs unveiled a statue honoring Banks, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
Mr. Cub is without doubt one of the greatest, if not the single greatest, player in Chicago Cubs history. Banks was the mark of loyalty to a team even, through losing times.
His back-to-back MVPs have been done since he did so, but Banks remains the only Cub to achieve this feat.
Banks' hard work and great play have forever made him a fan favorite of the Cubbie faithful. And this achievement shows only a fraction of the player that Ernie Banks was.
He carried the Cubs many times throughout his career, especially through the '58-'59 seasons, which is more evident by the fact he won the MVP on a losing team, twice.
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