The path Ernie Banks took to the big leagues might be just as amazing as any of his career accomplishments. His high school, Booker T. Washington in Dallas, did not have a baseball team while he attended, so he was forced to go elsewhere to develop his skills. Banks actually played fast-pitch softball during the summer in a local church league, and later played semipro baseball for the Amarillo Colts.
Despite scouts having very little to go, Banks was eventually spotted and recruited by a Negro League scout named Bill Blair. At age 19, Banks signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, earning $7.00 a game. The money wasn’t much, but the opportunity proved priceless because it finally allowed Banks to be seen and scouted.
From there, Banks went on to serve two years in the U.S. Army. When he returned to baseball, he found the doors were now wide open. His name had drawn some attention, and scouts like Hugh Wise, who filed this most interesting scouting report on July 28, 1953, were quickly on his trail.
If there’s such a thing as a perfect scouting report in baseball, this might be it. All of the baseball that would make Banks a Hall of Famer were on display, as were the qualities that endeared him to baseball fans for generations to come. He was the same person we all grew to know, even as a 22-year-old.
Not long after this report was filed, the Monarchs sold Banks’ contract to the Chicago Cubs for the recommended $10,000. As Wise noted, Banks was ready to play right away, so he was immediately placed on the major league squad, debuting on Sept. 17, 1953.
The rest, as they say, was baseball history.
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