Wrigley 100 May 12: Ernie Hits #500
On May 12, 1970 Ernie Banks became the first member of the Cubs franchise to hit 500 home runs.
*Banks had finished the 1969 season with 497 homers, so the countdown to 500 was the topic of conversation throughout the winter. He was also transitioning to a part-time role with the Cubs and struggled with limited at-bats. The pressure was ratcheted up when he went almost three weeks before his first home run of the season. Number 498 came on April 25, a high fly ball that floated into the left field bleachers against Houston off “Ball Four” author Jim Bouton. Thirteen days later, Ernie hit number 499 against the Reds and Don Gullett, a towering blast that landed on Waveland Avenue.
* Number 500 came off Atlanta’s Pat Jarvis on a 1-1 pitch in the second inning and was a signature Banks home run – a low line drive that sailed into the left field bleachers and bounced back onto the field.
*”I felt the ball had a real good chance,” Banks said in Dick Dozier’s Trib article the next day. “Then when I saw (Braves left fielder Rico) Carty turn and look into the seats, I knew it was in.”
*Can you hear Jack Brickhouse? “Everybody on your feet! This is it!”
*Carty singled in the game to extend his hitting streak to 30 games.
*At the time, Ernie was only the tenth member of the 500 home run club. The solo shot also set a milestone as Banks reached 1,600 RBI for his career.
*Only 5,264 hardy souls made their way to Wrigley Field that day. The Cubs won 4-3 in 11 innings.
*After the game, it took Banks 52 minutes to do all his post-game interviews and pose for this iconic Sun-Times photograph.
- Bob Vorwald