Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ernie Banks' Early Baseball Career: A Route 66 Connectin

From the Jan. 25, 2015, Chicago Tribune "The Greatest Cub."  Part of a two-page front section spread.

"'When I started to play baseball, I just had the natural quick hands,' Banks said.  'That was my extra advantage, my slight edge over everybody else.  ...I could wait until the last minute minute and hit the ball.'

"Banks' patented stance, that hypnotic wriggling of his fingers on the handle of his bat, one day would be emulated by legions of kids.  Those quick hands made Banks stand out among his peers, and at age of 17, with the help of former Negro leagues pitcher Bill Blair, he became part of a touring team based in Amarillo, Texas.  (Of course, Amarillo is on Route 66 and, playing in the National League his whole career, he would have played many games in St. Louis and Los Angeles, also on 66.)

"By 1950 Banks was playing professionally, albeit for $300 per month, for the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team managed by Buck O'Neil.  After a couple of years in the Army, he returned to the Monarchs in 1953 and began making a name for himself.

Snapping That Bat.  --Cooter

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ernie Banks: Ever the Optimist

Here is a partial list of all of Ernie's predictions for the Cubs.  I sure wish I'd find a a complete list of those predictions.

"The Cubs are due in '62."

"The Cubs will come alive in '65."

"The Cubs will be heavenly in '67-ly."

"The Cubs will shine in '69."

"The Cubs will glow in '7-0."

"The Cubs will be illuminated in '88.  That's a little weak.  I'll have to do better."  (Referring to the lights installed at Wrigley Field.)

We'll Miss That Smile.  --Cooter

"Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks, Speaks-- Part 3

AFTER HITTING HIS 500TH HOME RUN:  "The riches of the game are in the thrills, not the money."

AFTER RETIRING:  "I've never worked a day in my life."

AS A COACH IN 1976:  "I like my players to be married and in debt.  That's the way you motivate them."

IN 1977:  "Happiness is going eyeball-to-eyeball with those Cub fans.  That's really what I appreciated most about playing in Wrigley Field."

IN 2003:  "Sometimes when I'd hit a home run into the bleachers, I'd imagine the ball being caught by a kid and making his day.  Then, I'd think, 'Someday, I might have to ask that kid for a job.'  I can't imagine any of today's players needing to ask anybody for a job after baseball."

Wearing My Cubs Hat.  --Cooter

"Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks, Speaks-- Part 2

The Cubs resurgence in the late 60s led to his most memorable saying: "The Cubs will shine in '69."  And, they indeed did shine until September when that horrible thing happened which surely broke a lot of hearts.  (Not mine, though, as the Sox had done that to me with their fold in the final five games in '67.)


ERNIE BANKS' SIGNATURE QUOTE (though there are two variations):  "What a beautiful day!  Let's play two!"

IN 1955:  "I'm different from those that swing hard.  Can't follow the pitch if I try to slug.  I whip the bat with my wrists, with a snap.  This way I can wait longer to swing."

IN 1969, WHEN BANKS WAS NAMED TO THE CTA BOARD (Chicago Transportation Agency):  "For one thing, I want to make sure that the elevated always stops at Wrigley Field."

Da Man!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ernie Banks, the Greatest Cub: Ernie Speaks-- Part 1

From the Jan. 25, 2015, Chicago Tribune.

Aside from his home runs, Banks was a perennial optimist known for his annual slogans assuring Cub fans their high hopes would be rewarded.

"The Cubs will come alive in '65," he proclaimed before the team ended  with a dismal 90 losses and an eighth place finish.

Then in 1966, with new manager Leo Durocher, Banks announced "The Cubs will shoot from the hip with 'Leo the Lip,".  That was the year the Cubs finished last, in 10th place with 103 losses.

Then in 1966, he had some rhyming problems, but came out with "The Cubs will be heavenly in '67."  And, the Cubs did improve to third place and 84 wins.


The Magic of the Sunday Comics-- Part 3: Little Orphan Annie"

"Little Orphan Annie" debuted Nov. 2, 1924, and never aged a day in the nine decades since.  "She never grew up, or gave up, for all that life and her creator Harold Gray put her through.  Which is not to say that tragedy was unknown in the script.

"An archconservative like his employer, Tribune publisher Robert McCormick, Gray detested the New Deal-- making his point by killing off Annie's sometime benefactor, Daddy Warbucks, as a victim of a misguided social revolution that made capitalists obsolete.

"After President Franklin Roosevelt's death, Daddy Warbucks was resurrected, the seeming miracle explained as a missed diagnosis: Warbucks hadn't died, he was just in a coma."

But, Ralphie, in "A Christmas Story" sure was excited about his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring until he deciphered it to find it was just to get him to drink his Ovaltine.

Not One of My favorite Comic Strips.  --Cooter

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Magic of Sunday Comics-- Part 2

Continued from last week.

There was a time when syndicate salesmen (who sold the comic strips) would be met at trains by competing editors in their quest for new comics and features.

The Chicago Tribune occasionally published a page of gag cartoons in 1895, but it wasn't until December 1901 that it printed its first Sunday "comics supplement," with multipanel color strips and characters who appeared weekly, including "Animal Land" and "Mr. Boggs."

On Nov. 24, 1918 "Gasoline Alley."  This was a strip populated by guys working on their automobiles, but it was decided that it needed something to appeal to female readers.  The main character, Walt Wallet was unmarried, but problem solved when an abandoned baby was left on his doorstep.

He was named Skeezix, who grew up on the strip and fought in World War II, became a grandfather and had a mid-life crisis in the 1960s.  (I used to read this strip everyday in the Tribune, but it is no longer carried.)


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ernie Banks Hitting Those Homers

Taken from his 1970 Topps Baseball Card.

  Later in 1970, he hit home run #500, making him only the 9th player in MLB history to that time to hit 500+ homers.

Starting with his first year with the Cubs when he played ten games in 1953:

1953--  2, 19, 44, 28,

1957--  43, 47, 45

1960--  41, 29, 37, 18, 23

1965--  28, 15, 23, 32, 23

Total to end of 1969 was 497.

Not bad for a guy who started out as a shortstop.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Out of the Mouth of Ernie Banks

I just listened to Lin Braemer's "Lin's Bin" which today was on Ernie Banks.  I sure teared up.  Lin, one of the biggest Cubs fans ever, said he had a hard time putting it together and it still got to him this morning.  It will repeat again in the 6 p.m. CST hour on WXRT which streams.

Anyway, Ernie Banks was famous for his quotes and I especially liked his annual predictions, and, of course, "Let's play two!"

Here are some quotes:

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

"The Cubs are due in '62."

"The Cubs are gonna shine in '69."

"The only way to prove you're a good sport is to lose."

"The virtues of the game are in the thrills, not the money."

"Work? I never worked a day in my life.  I always loved what I was doing, had a passion for it."

We'll Miss Him.

Ernie Banks' 1958 Topps All-Star Selection Card-- Part 2

The card had a breakdown of how Ernie Banks played against each of the other seven National League teams in 1957.

He played his best against the Brooklyn Dodgers where in 83 at bats he scored 15 runs on 25 hits including 5 doubles and 11 HOME RUNS for a .301 batting average and 26 rbi and the Pittsburgh Pirates with 93 at bats, 33 hits and 8 HOME RUNS for a .355 batting average and 15 rbis.

His overall stats for 1957: 156 games, 594 abs, 113 runs, 169 hits, 34 doubles, 6 triples, 43 home runs, 103 rbis and .285 batting average.

Not bad for a shortstop, however, when I started watching the Cubs in 1964, he was always the first baseman.

A Great Has Left Us.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ernie Banks' '58 All Star Selection Topps Card-- Part 1

After yesterday's sad news, I got out my Cubs baseball card display book and started looking at the Ernie Banks cards.  Unfortunately, they only go back to this card as the others were way too expensive when I was collecting them back in the 60s and then again in the late 70s-80s.

His cards go back to 1953, I imagine, since that was his rookie year with the Cubs where he played ten games and hit his first two of more than 500 home runs in his career.

The back of his '58 card reads:
Ernie Banks
Chicago Cubs
Sport Magazine '58 All-Star Selection

The text "Ernie has inscribed his name in the record books bu clouting more homers than any other shortstop in history.  And when he comes to bat with the sacks loaded, pitchers shudder.  He blasted 5 out of the park with 3 men on in '56 for another all-time mark.  This year he hit 18 homers in the first seven weeks of the season.

Not bad for a shortstop.  --Cooter

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Talking Pumpkins-- Part 2

**  Pumpkin juice was a favorite drink of the students at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels.

**  The famous American writer Henry David Thoreau said, "I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowned on a velvet cushion."

**  Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater locked his wife in a pumpkin shell.

**  In his poem "The Pumpkin," the famous poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, "What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye, what calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?"

And then, there is that great pumpkin beers and pumpkin spice cappachino.  And, anything made of pumpkin in the fall.

--Cooter Cooter Pumpkin Drinker

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Talking Pumpkins-- Part 1

From the Oct. 8, 2014, Chicago Tribune "Pumpkins: 90% water, 10% magic" by Christopher De Vinck.

Starts with Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" cartoon strips and, of course, Linus' fascination with the Great Pumpkin rising from the pumpkin patch every Halloween.  Of course, Oct. 8th is leading up to that great pumpkin festival in the patch and everywhere at the end of the month.

"Consider the following magical pumpkin delights:

**  The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon, meaning large melon.

**  Massaging ground pumpkin paste onto the face was once believed to remove freckles.

**  Morton, Illinois, has earned the title of Pumpkin Capital of the World as 85% of the world's canned pumpkins are produced there.

**  Cinderella's fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a beautiful carriage.

And, then There Are Those Pumpkin Shakes!  --CooterPumpkin-Eater

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Magic of the Sunday Comics-- Part 1

From the Dec. 21, 2014, Chicago Tribune by Ron Grossman.

Graffiti cartoons date back to ancient Rome, but the modern comic strip is an offspring of the American newspaper at the turn of the 20th century.  Newspapers were vying for readers by cutting the cost of their papers to a penny or two (not like now, when they are going up fast.  The Tribune is $1.50 and USA Today $2 daily).

They began broadening their appeal with screaming headlines, celebrity gossip and lurid crime stories.  Then came the crosswords.

In 1895, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World started a front page cartoon feature, "The Yellow Kid."  It was so successful that other papers soon were scrambling for comic strips.

They were printed every weekday, but soon expanded to Sundays where they really became a hit.  Whole sections devoted to the sheer enjoyment and serialized offerings spread all over.

I know with me that no Sunday was complete until I got a hold of all that color and read most every comic strip therein.  After Dad had read them, of course.  I still read that comic section in the Tribune last every Sunday.  That is my dessert after all that news and advertising sections.

And, I know that i will soon be missing this section as it will be digital and brought up on pads and tablets.  That's o.k., but just not the same.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Father of Modern-Day Baseball Cards-- Part 3

Kids, especially boys, would put the cards in their bicycle spokes to make that clacking noise (but, of course, ruining the card.  And then there was all the trading of cards "I'll give you two Mickey Mantles for your Willie Mays."  Most boys quit collecting and eventually their moms through them out or sold them at garage sales (as in my case).

Scarcity of the earlier cards as such led to the cards being looked to as investments, especially in the 1980s.  For example, the T206 Honus Wagner and 1952 Mickey Mantle cards became extremely valuable.  Last week. a 1952 Mickey Mantle sold at auction for $268,664!!  Wonder how many were thrown into the Atlantic.

Other companies like Fleer, Donrus and Bowman got into the game.  By the 1980s, baseball cards were so popular that the gum was dropped.

A word about that gum.  My experience was always that you needed a hammer to break it, then could cut gashes in your mouth while trying to soften it up to chew.  Them, in addition, it was sickenly sweet.

I didn't like the gum, but had paid for it so went ahead and chomped down.

Father of Modern-Day Baseball Cards Dies-- Part 2: Sy Berger Dumping the '52s

Sy Berger joined Topps in 1952 and produced their first set of baseball cards which he designed at his kitchen table using cardboard and scissors.  Packs of this edition came with six cards and piece of gum and sold for 5 cents.

One of those cards was a Mickey Mantle rookie card, but even with that, it didn't sell well at all.  The set was overproduced, especially the second part of it.  There were a whole lot that did not sell and Berger tried to unload them by going around to carnivals and selling them for a penny each and eventually, in desperation, ten for a penny.

By 1960, he still had a huge number of the 1952 set so he eventually commissioned a barge to carry three garbage truck loads of the '52s out to the Atlantic Ocean where they were dumped.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Father of Modern-Day Baseball Cards Dies-- Part 1: Sy Berger

SY BERGER, 91, DIED DEC. 14, 2014.

Sy Berger devised the practice of signing Major League Baseball players year after year to use their names and images on cards which were published in annual sets.

For 30+ years, Topps had been paying players $75 a year for that privilege, and usually that amount was applied toward buying stuff from their catalog.  Berger knew players personally which made it easier for him to get them to sign.  However, it took him six years to get St. Louis slugger Stan Musial to ink a contract.  Mr. Berger was often seen by the side of close personal friend Willie Mays.

Topps was formed in 1938 as a chewing gum company.  As gum competition grew, they unveiled their Bazooka Bubble Gum which also included a short comic strip as a way to increase sales.  And that led to putting gum into packs of baseball cards.

More to Come.