Ernie Banks - Childhood In Texas
Childhood in Texas
Ernest Banks, born in Dallas, Texas in 1931, was his family's first son and second born child. Ernie was an introverted, good hearted child, devoted to helping around the house, and attending church and Sunday School, and for a time his mother thought he would follow in his grandfather's footsteps and become a minister. Growing up, he participated in a number of sports. He was a talented basketball player, averaging 20 points per game in high school, and a high jumper who could clear nearly six feet. In summers and fall, when he wasn't working in the cotton fields near Dallas for $1.75 a day, he played pick-up softball. Banks' father played for the Dallas Green Monarchs and the Black Giants, two teams in the Negro Leagues that existed while major league ball was still segregated. Ernie served as batboy on his father's teams, but he did not play baseball himself until well he was into his teens.
In 1947 William Blair, a black newspaper publisher and ex-Negro League pitcher, saw a softball game in which the sixteen-year-old Banks slugged a long homer off an established pitcher named Brannon. "Brannon was the fastest pitcher I had ever seen," Blair recalled to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Barry Horn. "I never saw anyone who could throw like him. I never saw anyone get the solid licks off him. And here was this willowy kid walloping ball after ball off him. Ernest, I could tell right away, was going to be something special." With Blair's help, Banks joined a black baseball team from Amarillo that barnstormed from New Mexico up to Nebraska. He played that one summer at shortstop and learned rapidly. "You had to show Ernest everything one time, and he learned it," Blair told Horn.