Whether facing a journeyman such as Barney Schultz or a fellow Hall of Famer like Steve Carlton, Cubs icon Ernie Banks produced some of his most spectacular performances against Cardinals pitching.
In a 19-year playing career with the Cubs, Banks had 512 home runs, 1,636 RBI and 2,583 hits. Against the Cardinals, Banks batted .277 with 326 hits in 324 games, including 64 home runs.
“One thing that the fans never really knew about Ernie … is that he talked all of the time,” George Altman, an outfielder with the Cubs and Cardinals, wrote in his autobiography. “He talked to the opposing hitters when they reached first base. He talked to our infielders. He talked to us on the bench.”
All of that talking became too much for Cardinals ace and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
“Ernie Banks was a good example of a guy whom I probably would have enjoyed quite a bit if he had been on my side _ I don’t doubt that he was as nice a guy as everybody said _ but as it was he talked too damn much,” Gibson said in his book “Stranger to the Game.”
“He was always jabbering at me a day or two before I pitched against the Cubs, trying to get me off my game. One day at old Busch Stadium he came by during batting practice and said, ‘Hoot, you pitching tomorrow? We’re going to beat you. We’re going to beat your ass tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Ernie, you’d better leave me alone.’
“It wasn’t in his nature to do that, though, and the next day I answered him.”
Gibson drilled Banks in the ribs with a pitch. “He didn’t have much to say to me after that,” Gibson said.
That day, July 18, 1962, Gibson struck out Banks three times and held the Cubs to three hits in a 2-1 Cardinals victory. Boxscore
Banks had a career batting mark of .229 (24-for-105) against Gibson with three home runs and 13 RBI.
Some of Banks’ most memorable games versus the Cardinals:
Banks hit two home runs on April 16, 1955, but the Cardinals won, 12-11, in 14 innings at St. Louis.
In the second inning, Randy Jackson, Banks and Dee Fondy hit consecutive home runs off Tom Poholsky.
With the score at 9-9 in the 12th, Banks and Fondy connected for back-to-back homers off Schultz. The Cardinals tied the score in the bottom half of the inning on Wally Moon’s two-run homer with two outs off Bubba Church.
A misplay involving Banks ignited the winning rally in the 14th. Bill Sarni lifted a fly to short left. Banks, the shortstop, and left fielder Hank Sauer miscommunicated and the ball dropped in for a double. Moon followed with a single off Vicente Amor, making his big-league debut, scoring Sarni. Boxscore
Three months later, on July 8, 1955, Banks again homered twice against the Cardinals. This time, the Cubs won, 6-4, in 11 innings.
Banks hit a solo home run off Floyd Wooldridge in the first. In the 11th, Banks broke a 4-4 tie with a two-run homer off Gordon Jones. Boxscore
The home runs gave Banks a season total of 23, most for a shortstop in one year since Glenn Wright slugged 22 for the 1930 Dodgers.
In a five-game stretch against St. Louis in July 1955, Banks hit .550 (10-for-18).
Perfect at plate
Banks produced five hits in a game for the only time in his major-league career on Sept. 29, 1957, against the Cardinals. He was 5-for-5 with a career-best three doubles and two singles in an 8-3 Cubs victory in the season finale. Boxscore
Banks had a career-high seven RBI in a game three times. The second time was against the Cardinals at St. Louis on May 1, 1963. Banks hit a pair of three-run home runs _ in the first inning off Ray Sadecki and in the seventh off Harry Fanok _ and added an RBI-single in the eighth. The Cubs won, 13-8. Boxscore
Fit to be tied
Ten years after his 12th-inning home run off Schultz, Banks hit another dramatic shot against the Cardinals knuckleball pitcher.
On April 12, 1965, in the season opener at Chicago, the Cardinals carried a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and none on, Tracy Stallard walked Ron Santo and Altman followed with a single.
Red Schoendienst, in his debut as manager, replaced Stallard with Schultz. Banks greeted him with a three-run homer “into the teeth of a 20 mph wind,” according to the Associated Press, tying the score at 9-9.
After each team scored in the 11th, the game was ended because of darkness and declared a tie, with all statistics counting. Boxscore
“Stallard pitched like a son of a gun,” said Schoendienst. “But when Altman got that good, solid hit I … decided to take him out. Why not? Schultz was warmed up and nobody has touched him for anything in the spring games.”
At 39, Banks hit a pair of two-run home runs off Carlton _ the first giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead in the sixth and the second snapping a 4-4 tie in the eighth _ but the Cardinals rallied and won, 8-6, at St. Louis on June 29, 1970.
The home runs were the 506th and 507th of Banks’ career and were the last he would hit against Cardinals pitching. Boxscore
Composer Burt Bacharach, Banks’ self-described No. 1 fan, was in St. Louis for a concert and was greeted by Banks outside the clubhouse after the game.
“You were making beautiful music out there,” Bacharach said to Banks.
Banks played against the Cardinals for the final time on Sept. 10, 1971, when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter against Don Shaw at Wrigley Field. Boxscore
Previously: Bob Gibson vs. Billy Williams: a classic duel