Chicago Cubs: Remembering Ernie Banks’ 500th home run, 50 years later
Ernie Banks hit his 500th career home run with the Chicago Cubs on May 12, 1970. Fifty years later, we look back on that historic achievement.
Many Chicago Cubs seasons have come and gone, including our long-awaited championship in 2016, yet one thing remains: Ernie Banks still is the most beloved Cub in team history. And it was on this date 50 years ago that he had possibly his biggest moment.
On May 12, 1970, the Cubs were playing the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field. Amazingly, just 5,264 people were in attendance that day. With the Braves up 2-0 in the second inning and Pat Jarvis on the mound for Atlanta, Banks stepped up to the plate at 499 career homers. The legendary Jack Brickhouse captured the moment so well:
An interesting note about that game: Billy Williams hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth off Hoyt Wilhelm, and the Cubs won in the 11th on a walk-off single by Ron Santo.
At the time, Banks was just the ninth player to reach 500 home runs; we now have 27 players who have done so. For that reason, hitting 500 home runs was a huge deal back then; it still is, but maybe not as much as it once was.
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But for me, Banks’ 500th home run is not only significant because it was a milestone in a great playing career, important as that is. It’s also important because it was the culmination of 18 years all playing with the same team.
Cubs fans had witnessed many great moments from Banks over the years, and it’s as if this home run was a reward for going through the long journey with Banks through thick and thin throughout his career.
Does any other player’s 500th home run live in their team’s lore more than Banks’ does? This is no disrespect to the other players who have achieved it, but many of them happened with teams that the player didn’t spend their whole career with. Banks and the Cubs are synonymous, and that’s why this home run remains a legendary Cubs moment.
Of course, Cubs fans also celebrate this feat because Banks was such a loveable player; his great attitude and enthusiasm for the game were second to none. I wish I could have witnessed this moment live; it happened 15 years before I was born. Still, it’s an event we can all celebrate, half a century later.