Touch ’em all, Ernie Banks: It’s the 50-year anniversary of home run No. 500 for Mr. Cub
As Banks, the greatest player in Cubs history — still true, for those of you scoring at home — rounded third, the incomparable Jack Brickhouse doubled down on the delirium of the moment: “Everybody on your feet! This is it! Wheeee!”
The fastball from Atlanta righty Pat Jarvis rode up and in on 39-year-old Ernie Banks, who had been having a lot of trouble catching up to such pitches of late.
Not this one, though. Not the one on May 12, 1970, in the second inning on a wet day at Wrigley Field. Banks turned on it, and the ball screamed off his bat — a liner yanked into the first row of the bleachers.
“That’s a fly ball, deep to left, back, back — that’s it! That’s it! Hey, hey!” was Jack Brickhouse’s call on Channel 9. “He did it! Ernie Banks got No. 500!”
As Banks, the greatest player in Cubs history — still true, for those of you scoring at home — rounded third, the incomparable Brickhouse doubled down on the delirium of the moment:
“Everybody on your feet! This is it! Wheeee!”
With that, the Cubs trailed 2-1 in a game that would be knotted up with a ninth-inning homer by Billy Williams and won 4-3 in the 11th on an RBI base hit by Ron Santo.
A pretty good day in the future Hall of Famer department at the old ballyard.
Another member of the Cubs’ HOF crew, pitcher Fergie Jenkins, ran onto the field with teammates to greet Banks at the plate.
“I’m not sure what happened, but all of the sudden tears were coming down my face,” Jenkins recalled 50 years later.
“Ernie, he was my great friend. We roomed together on the road the last three years that he played. I just loved him. Someone that flamboyant, with all that charisma — he never stopped talking — I nicknamed him “AM/FM” because you couldn’t turn him off. He never talked about himself, though; it was always about the improvement he wanted for the ballclub. He loved the game, and he loved the Chicago Cubs.”
Banks was the ninth big-league player to reach the 500-homer mark, and he ended his career with 512, which today ranks tied for 23rd on the all-time list.
Sammy Sosa would come along and hit 97 more, earning himself, well, what? Nothing close to Mr. Cub status.
“Ernie was right there with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente,” Williams said last week. “I put him right up there. I don’t know if people anymore realize how good Ernie was, but he was one of the best to ever play the game.”
Banks loved the spotlight, but maybe we don’t talk about him enough anymore, especially not since the Dallas native died in 2015. He was a 14-time All-Star, a two-time National League MVP, a member of MLB’s All-Century Team and a Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility in 1977.
He might’ve accomplished even more, numbers-wise, but he started off in the Negro Leagues before a stint in the army. He’s buried in Graceland Cemetery, just north of Wrigley, befitting a man who loved the Cubs like no one else.
Homer No. 500 was the only one Banks hit off Jarvis, who later became a county sheriff outside Atlanta. Banks took future Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts deep 15 times, a sneakily incredible stat when you really think about it.
“We all joked with Ernie, ‘When you go down to Atlanta, Jarvis is going to put you in jail,’ ” Williams said.
Banks is out of the clear on that front. Tuesday is his day — one to remember.
In the final seconds of Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals, Bulls forward Scottie Pippen — leading the team with Michael Jordan in temporary retirement — asked out of a game against the rival Knicks.
It’s a nice way to say Pippen pouted like a petulant child.
Toni Kukoc rescued Pippen and the team with a buzzer-beating shot, a moment featured during Sunday’s Episode 7 of “The Last Dance” documentary series on ESPN.
“I wish it never happened,” Pippen said 26 years later, “but, if I had a chance to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t change it.”
Way to own up, dude. We’re all calling bull on that mess, aren’t we?
• Some of us who feel a fondness for Golden State coach Steve Kerr probably wish we could’ve shielded him from the Jordan punch that was talked about in the mother of all docs, but a fist and an eye came together long ago, and that’s that.
Poor Kerr — the littlest, weakest guy on the practice floor, as Jordan described him with seeming regret.
News flash: Kerr is no pushover. Those who played with him in college at Arizona will promise you that, and Kerr competed with all he had with the Bulls. And another little thing: In recent years, anyone who has seen Kerr working out in a gym as he has battled debilitating back problems knows how tough and resilient he is.
I’ve seen it. Kerr is a monster.
• I’m in the camp that says Jordan’s baseball exploits were extraordinary. He went straight to Class AA in the White Sox organization and hit and fielded like someone who had played the game for years on end. Impossibility met reality — Jordan wasn’t good enough to be there right away in Birmingham, but he was rising to the challenge.
And, speaking of, it’s going to be a lot of fun in five years or so when Tim Anderson, a former Alabama state champion point guard, takes a break from winning World Series with the Sox to chase his basketball dreams with the Bulls.
Right, Jerry Reinsdorf?
But we kid. Mostly.