NPR says Ernie Banks played for White Sox; Cubs fans not amused

As a White Sox fan, I only wish Ernie Banks hit some of those 512 homers at Comiskey Park instead of Wrigley Field. If he had played for those strong Sox teams in the 50s and 60s, he definitely wouldn’t have gone his own career without playing in a World Series.

Of course, everyone knows Banks as “Mr. Cub.” Well, almost everyone.

Apparently, NPR’s Ari Shapiro needs to brush up on his baseball history. Mark Memmot wrote the mea culpa on NPR’s site.

The words were barely out of our friend and correspondent mouth just after 7:30 a.m. ET this morning when the phones started ringing and emails started arriving.

Among those receiving at the White House, Ari said on the NPR Newscast, would be baseball legend Ernie Banks.

Then Ari got into trouble. Banks, he said, “played for the Chicago White Sox, President Obama’s favorite baseball team.”

Error on Ari.

Cubs fans weren’t amused.

Emails filled our inboxes. Here’s a sampling:

— “Ernie Banks played for the Chicago White Sox??? Next NPR newsflash: Derek Jeter named captain of the Boston Red Sox.”

— “Isn’t it bad enough that Cubs fans have had virtually nothing else to cheer about in over 100 years besides being Ernie Banks’s team, and now this!”

— “Tragedy struck today at around 7:30 EST … across the nation Cubs fans’ heads suddenly exploded.”

2 thoughts on “NPR says Ernie Banks played for White Sox; Cubs fans not amused

  1. Ironically Banks almost DID play for the White Sox. From my “What If?” story on the Sox going over some of the biggest things that almost happened to the franchise:


    Here’s something that’ll make a Cub fan choke… if not for circumstances, Ernie Banks, the famed “Mr. Cub,” might never have played a game for the North Side. Instead Banks might have spent his career on the South Side and consequently gotten into a World Series…or two.

    As to why Banks didn’t become a member of the Sox, details are unclear but some facts are known and it appears the main reason was because of the personalities of two of the leading Sox members of the 1950’s, Frank “Trader” Lane and Paul Richards
    As G.M., Lane executed several brilliant deals netting the Sox All Star performers like Billy Pierce, Nellie Fox, “Minnie” Minoso and Sherm Lollar. Richards, the field manager from 1951 through late 1954, was a brilliant tactician and a tremendous teacher. He had a mind like a chess master, always thinking one or two moves ahead of his opponent. Pierce said he was the best manager he ever had. But both men were strong willed, and had big egos and that would come into play.

    By 1952 Lane was earning 35,000 a season plus a ‘nickel a head’ bonus based on attendance that added an additional 41,000 thousand dollars. Richards who had authored three very good seasons was getting 25,000 thousand and a ‘nickel a head’ for anything over 900,000 in paid admissions.

    By August 1954 Richards was looking elsewhere. He couldn’t get a raise from Sox ownership and he couldn’t get a multi-year contract from the team. He was looking for a three year package worth 40,000 thousand and was turned down. On September 13, Richards accepted the role of both field and general manager for the Baltimore Orioles.

    So how does Banks come into play?

    Fast forward to May 21, 1956. By now Richards is still with the Orioles, Lane is the G.M. of the Cardinals. On this day the Sox, led by co G.M.’s, Chuck Comiskey and John Rigney traded George Kell to the Orioles for Dave Philley and Yankee killer Jim Wilson. When Lane heard about the deal he told the press, “Comiskey got the best of Richards” When Richards heard the comment he exploded, “if you leave Lane alone, he’ll trade a first place club into a sixth place club.” He ripped Lane for every ill advised deal he ever made dating back to the trade of fleet footed outfielder Jim Busby. The he dropped a bombshell.

    Richards told the press that the Sox had a chance to sign Banks, whom their scouts had followed extensively, but that Lane wasn’t interested in looking at him! Richards knew about Ernie and pushed for the club to get him but at that time the two men weren’t on good terms and Lane basically ignored most of Richards recommendations.

    What if the Sox signed Banks and he spent his Hall Of Fame career on the South Side?

    There are some interesting scenarios here.

    Banks broke into the big leagues in 1953. He wouldn’t have produced the same power numbers playing in Comiskey Park as opposed to Wrigley Field, but there’s no question he would have hit enough to supply that missing dimension from the Sox lineups throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. He certainly could have been the difference in the 1964 and 1967 pennant races and he might have enabled strong White Sox teams in 1955 and 1957 to win the pennant also.

    There’s also something else to consider….if Banks signed and was the regular shortstop, do the White Sox even bother signing Luis Aparicio?

    Think about how the ‘Go-Go Sox’ would have looked without the fastest man on the team.

    Aparicio signed with the Sox in 1954, that same season Banks hit .275 with 19 home runs for the Cubs. Luis became Rookie of the Year in 1956. Of course had the Sox signed both they might have moved Ernie to a different position, say first base, which would have really solved an issue on the club that had been lacking for long time.

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