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Cubs historical sleuthing: Ernie Banks edition

This one was easy.

First, I want to give thanks to BCBer The Deputy Mayor of Rush Street, who called my attention to the photo above, tweeted by the @WatchMarquee account:

I had my suspicions about this photo even before I did some sleuthing, and it turns out I was right. The photo was taken on Ernie Banks Day, August 15, 1964. The people on the field behind Ernie are “2,000 Little League and Pony League players,” per this WGN-TV article that was published on the 50th anniversary of the day honoring Mr. Cub:

Jack Brickhouse was the master of ceremonies. Among the gifts:

– A scroll from Mayor Daley proclaiming August 15 as “Ernie Banks Day” in Chicago.

– A diamond ring from the Cubs organization presented by Charlie Grimm.

-A new station wagon.

– A sterling silver tray engraved “Ernie Banks Day, Mr. Cubs, August 15, 1964” presented by Cubs pitcher and player representative Larry Jackson.

-A trans-oceanic transistor radio from WGN, presented by Jack Quinlan.

– A plaque from Warren Giles, president of the National League.

-$50 savings bonds for his three children from the Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

-And, of course, a huge cake.

There’s an additional photo of the event at the WGN-TV link.

Savings bonds were a big deal in 1964, people often received them as gifts for various special occasions. It’s equivalent to about $415 today.

The article says the silver tray was engraved “Mr. Cubs,” and I hope it actually said “Mr. Cub.” Ernie lost a lot of his memorabilia in a bitter divorce from his first wife, so who knows where that tray, or the diamond ring, or the plaque, are these days.

The scoreboard is a good snapshot in time, too. In 1964 there was a Milwaukee team in the National League, Washington and Kansas City (the A’s!) in the American and the Angels, shown at the top, were “Los Angeles,” before they switched to “California” in 1966. That franchise became “Anaheim” in 1997, “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” in 2005 and since 2016 have reverted to the original “Los Angeles Angels,” without Anaheim appended.

Also, you can see the ivy has started to overgrow the empty, blocked-off center-field bleachers. In May 1967, that area was covered with Astroturf. I’m not sure of the exact date the Astroturf was installed, but the Tribune recap of the game May 19 against the Dodgers, the first game of a homestand, refers to it as “new.” It seems likely it was installed the previous week during a Cubs trip to the West Coast.

Back to Banks Day: 23,003 attended the game that Saturday afternoon in August 1964. The Cubs lost to the Pirates 5-4, their eighth loss in their previous 12 games. Banks, hitting fifth as was normal for him in those days, went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. Ernie had a poor year in 1963 due to having mumps (!), but he recovered to post 3.1 bWAR in 1964, hitting .264/.307/.450 with 23 home runs. Even that was still down from his MVP seasons in the late 1950s.

Here’s a larger version of the photo at the top of this post. For an even larger version click here.