Monday, January 21, 2013

1969 TOPPS ERNIE BANKS

A CLASSIC CARD OF MR. CUB.


THOSE ARE SOME BIG-MAN NUMBERS.

THE FRONT PAGE

  • Ernie Banks would hit 23 homers in 1969 and finish three shy of 500. 
  • Of course, Banks and the Cubs weren't wasting too much time thinking about that pending milestone achievement in '70; they stayed busy in the off-season wondering how they squandered a five-game lead with 26 to play and the NL East title to the Mets. 
  • The Cubs went 8-18 down the stretch and finished an incredible eight games behind the Mets, who went 23-7 to close the regular season. It was like two ships passing in the night with one taking on water and the other taking off. 

THE BACK PAGE

  • Sammy Sosa (545) now owns the Cubs' all-time home run record, a fact that probably rankles most hardcore Cubby fans.
  • Banks is still No. 1 in RBI though with 1,636.
  • Those back-to-back MVP seasons were quite good, weren't they?

PHOTO PLAY

  • No player exudes a zest for the game like Mr. Cub. I mean, look at that smile.
  • The Cubby bear sleeve patch is one of those iconic logos that instantly takes me back to Little League, bubble-gum cards and my childhood.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • A lot of baseball fans who think the Cubs have been perpetual losers might be surprised to know they went 515-449 (.534) during the six-year period from '67-'72.
  • Yes, I know they won zero titles. Still, that's a pretty good run.
  • During that stretch, the team was led by four eventual Hall of Famers: Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ron Santo. They were led by another Hall of Famer, Manager Leo Durocher
  • Wait a minute: They won zero titles during that stretch? What the flip!? Maybe that wasn't a pretty good run after all.
  • In Durocher's Cubs: The Greatest Team that Didn't Win, author David Claerbaut pinned the '69 collapse on Durocher. The author says he played his stars until they dropped and spent too much energy feuding with players, sportswriters and even fans, creating a tension-filled clubhouse.
  • A record Banks surely isn't proud of is playing the most games in major-league history (2,528) without reaching the playoffs.
  • Mr. Sunshine deserved better, especially because '69 was his last great year, adding 106 RBI to those 23 homers at age 38.
  • Banks got his 500th home run on May 12, 1970, off the Braves' Pat Jarvis at Wrigley Field. He retired after the '71 season with 512.
  • In the late '60s and early '70s, Banks operated Ernie Banks Ford in Chicago. I'd love to get a hold of a dealership license plate to bolt on my F-150.
  • Moved to first base from short in '62 because of leg problems that affected his range.
  • Surprised to learn on Baseball-Reference.com that he played more games at first (1,259) than at short (1,125).
  • Banks (14), Santo (10) and Jenkins (31) have their retired numbers on the foul-pole flags in left field. Of course, if those flags are pointing toward Waveland Avenue, look out beyond.



"It's a great day for a ballgame; let's play two!''

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