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Known worldwide as “Mr. Cub,” Banks became the Cubs’ first African-American player on Sept. 17, 1953, and went on to become an 11-time all-star and two-time National League Most Valuable Player (1958-59).
Renowned for his sunny disposition, Banks, 83, loved the game and often proclaimed: “Let’s play two!” even when the Cubs struggled to climb out of the National League basement. On Nov. 20, 2013, Banks was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom during ceremonies at the White House in recognition of his goodwill.
When first notified that he would be receiving the award, Banks said: “It means everything to me. It means life is just wonderful. When you do things to try to help people and share things, it really comes back to you. I try to do that. I love the players, love Wrigley Field, love all the players. This award means a lot to me. It’s almost like the Nobel Peace Prize to me.”
Banks’ best overall season was 1959 when he led the NL with 143 RBIs and hit 43 home runs. Defensively, he led all shortstops with a .985 fielding percentage. In 1960 he won a Gold Glove at shortstop. He hit more than 40 homers five times, including 47 in 1958. In 1955 he hit a record five grand slams. Banks played his entire career with the Cubs and is considered one of the greatest players of all time not to play in the post-season.
“When I am not here, this will be here,” Banks joked after the ceremony as he pointed to the sculpture.