The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #16: Legends Yogi Berra and Ernie Banks pass away


We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Every year brings us the loss of members of the baseball community. Among the notable losses in 2015 were Minnie Minoso, Al Rosen, Alex Johnson, Nelson Doubleday, Jr., Darryl Hamilton, Billy Pierce, Joaquin Andujar, Milo Hamilton, Dean Chance, Tommy Hanson and Dave Henderson.

But this year two clubs lost their most beloved and notable ambassadors: Ernie Banks of the Cubs and Yogi Berra of the Yankees.

Banks, who died in January at age 83, was the face of his franchise for multiple generations. A franchise known more for its futility than its success, but it was a futility which never lessened or besmirched the legacy of its greatest player. He hit 512 home runs in his 19 major league seasons, all in Chicago, and posted a career line of .274/.330/.500. He was a big-hitting shortstop in an age where shortstops were not expected to hit. His bat was so good that, when he could no longer handle the position due to knee problems which dated back to his days in the army, that bat played just fine at first base. Mr. Cub stands in death, as he did in life, as one of the most famous figures the game has ever known and, by far, the most famous and beloved Chicago Cub.

Berra, who passed in September at age 90, led the Yankees to 14 World Series appearances during his 18 seasons in the Bronx, won three MVP Awards and played in 15 straight All-Star Games. He hit .285/.348/.482 in 19 overall seasons and led both the Yankees and the Mets to pennants as a manager. He was known the world over for his famous quotes and malapropisms, but as I wrote in September, he was the rare man who was much, much greater than his legend.

Death touches baseball as it touches us all. But rare is it that two figures as universally loved and respected as Banks and Berra enter Baseball Valhalla in the same year. Their loss will be forever felt by fans and friends even as their legacies are never forgotten.