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On This Date in Sports May 12, 1970: Banks 500

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Ernie Banks, a longtime fan favorite with the Chicago Cubs, becomes the ninth player to hit 500 career home runs. The milestone comes before a small crowd at Wrigley Field. Banks hit one into the bleachers in the left-field bleachers against Pat Jarvis of the Atlanta Braves in the second inning. The Cubs would win the game 4-3 in 11 innings. Ernie Bankes would retire following the 1971 season, hitting 512 home runs in a 19-year career, exclusively with the Cubs. 

Ernie Banks was born on January 31, 1931, in Dallas. The son of a warehouse loader who played semi-professional baseball, Ernie Banks lettered in three sports at his segregated high school. His school Booker T. Washington High School did not have a baseball program, so Banks played fastpitch softball and played for a local semipro team. It was there that he was noticed by scouts from the Negro Leagues. One player who noticed Ernie Banks was Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell, who had Banks sign with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1950.

After his first season with the Monarchs, Ernie Banks was drafted by the Army and served in Germany during the Korean War. Banks played part-time with the Harlem Globetrotters and was a flag bearer in the anti-aircraft division. In 1953, Banks returned to the Monarchs after his discharge from the Army. Banks hit .347 and finished the season with the Chicago Cubs, becoming the first black player on the team on September 17, 1953. 

Ernie Banks never played in the minors and finished second in the Rookie of the Year ballot in 1954 behind Wally Moon of the St. Louis Cardinals. Banks made his first All-Star team in 1955. He would be named to 14 All-Star teams during his career. In 1958, Ernie Banks led the National League with 47 home runs and 129 RBI and earned MVP honors. Banks would win two consecutive MVP awards, despite playing on a second division team in Chicago.

Throughout the 1960s, Ernie Banks became a stalwart in Chicago, earning the nickname "Mr. Cub." Ernie Banks' outgoing personality charmed Chicago, as he often was the ray of sunshine during a gloomy time for the Cubs. A role he would continue to hold following, as he became a symbol for the franchise. The Cubs finally had a pennant race in 1969, but despite leading the National League East for most of the season, they could not stop the Miracle Mets, who rolled past Chicago in September. 

The Cubs were leading the East early in the 1970 season, with Leo Durocher at the helm. The 500 milestone was in reach as the Cubs hosted the Atlanta Braves on a Tuesday afternoon, with just over 5,000 fans on hand. The Cubs handed the Braves two runs in the first inning on a wild pitch by Ken Holtzman. Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run in the second inning to get the Cubs on the board. Chicago trailed 3-2 in the ninth inning when Billy Williams tied the game with a home run off Hoyt Wilhelm. The game would be decided in the 11th inning as Ron Santo had a walk-off single that scored Don Kessinger, making a winner of Phil Regan, as Bob Priddy took the loss for Atlanta.