Ernie Banks hit his 512th and final career home run in front of a full house at Wrigley Field August 24, 1971, a solo shot in the fourth inning off Reds righthander Jim McGlothlin in a game the Cubs lost 5-4. Banks wasn’t playing much by then, but no one knew it’d be his last home run until he announced his retirement at the end of the 1971 season. Here’s No. 512 [VIDEO].
The announcer on Ernie’s 512th is Jim West, who called games along with Jack Brickhouse from 1970-76. It’s really kind of a shame that Brickhouse, who is as much a Cubs icon as Banks, didn’t get to call Ernie’s last home run.
That franchise record seemed as if it might stand forever, but then Sammy Sosa came to the ballclub and began smashing home runs at a record pace. Sosa hit 60 or more home runs three times — he’s the only player to do that — and set the franchise record with 66 in 1998.
Sosa hit 29 home runs as a member of the White Sox and Rangers from 1989-91, and his career total of 539 at the end of the 2003 season left him with 510 as a Cub, three short or breaking Mr. Cub’s record.
He hit No. 511 in Cincinnati April 8, 2004 in a 5-3 loss and tied Ernie’s club record eight days later with a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth in a game at Wrigley, also against the Reds. That one tied the game 10-10 and two pitches later, Moises Alou won it.
In the series finale two days later, Sammy came to bat in the bottom of the first inning with the Cubs trailing 3-0.
Sammy added one more in the third inning, another solo shot that tied the game 3-3. The Reds turned the tables on the Cubs in that one, winning 11-10.
Sosa would hit 31 more home runs for the Cubs before departing after the 2004 season. It’s not my purpose here to rehash the reasons for him leaving or the ongoing dispute between Sosa and Cubs ownership that has prevented a reunion between the two parties, something many fans want.
The purpose of this article is simply to note that a Cubs franchise record that had stood for 33 years was broken on that April afternoon at Wrigley Field, and that makes Sammy’s 513th homer as a Cub one of the greatest in franchise history. He paid tribute to Ernie after the game:
“It’s something that I have to be proud of,” Sosa said of topping Banks. “I’ve been here for many years and had the chance to pass one of the legends here in this organization, Mr. Ernie Banks. I believe he should be happy, too, because in life, records are made to be broken. He’s a legend, he’ll still be a legend in my heart.”
Perhaps someday, that Cubs/Sosa reunion can take place. Sammy will appear again later in this series.