Ernest Banks, his family’s first son and second child, was born in Dallas, Texas on January 31, 1931 and devoted the first few years of his childhood to helping around the house and attending Church and Sunday school. For a while, his mother thought that Banks would take after his grandfather to become a minister but she was proven wrong when Banks got involved in playing baseball with his father.
Banks’ father played for the Dallas Green Monarchs and the Black Giants and allowed his son to serve as a batboy for the two teams. However, Banks did not start playing baseball himself until he reached his teens and continued to be involved in a number of sports in high school, especially basketball, averaging 20 points per game and jumping to a height of almost six feet. Banks also played softball during the summers when he was not working at the cotton fields near Dallas.
In 1947, Ernie Banks was spotted playing softball by William Blair, a black newspaper publisher and ex-Negro League pitcher, who immediately recognized Banks’ potential and assisted him in earning a spot in the black baseball team from Amarillo. Banks spent one summer playing for the team and proved to be a fast learner, adapting techniques after they were shown to him once.
During one of Amarillo’s games against one of the premier teams in black baseball, Kansas City Monarchs, the Manager of the latter team was impressed by Banks’ work and signed him to the Monarchs after his graduation in 1950. Spending the first to season in the U.S. Army, Banks returned to the Monarchs in 1953 who were heading towards a downfall with most of their players transferring to the majors and hence, needed Banks to finish the season for the team. When the 1953 season reached its end, Chicago Cubs bought Banks from the Monarchs for $10,000.
Banks became the first African American to play for the team and played 10 games for the Cubs that year making a major league debut at the Wrigley field with an average of 0.314 and two home runs. In 1954, Banks served the team as