Ernie Banks’ Teams Prior to the Chicago Cubs
1951 & 1952
Eddie Banks (1894-1978)
Ernie’s father, Eddie Banks, was a semipro pitcher and catcher with several teams, including:
● Black Orphans, Marshall, TX
● Oklahoma City, OK
● Tulsa, OK
● Black Buffaloes, Houston, TX
● Black Giants, Dallas, TX
William "Bill" Blair (October 17, 1921 – April 20, 2014) was a Negro league pitcher. Blair graduated Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas and briefly attended Prairie View A&M University. He began his baseball career at the age of 16, playing for a barnstorming team in Mineola, Texas, and went on to join the United States Army, where he became the youngest African American to serve as a first sergeant in the Army during World War II. He pitched from 1946 to 1951, for teams including the Indianapolis Clowns, Cincinnati Crescents, and was a player-manager for the Dallas Black Giants. He played against players such as Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, and Hilton Smith. After retiring from baseball, he became a fixture in the community, running a local newspaper, the Elite News, and organizing golf tournaments and parades. He died in Campbell, Texas in 2014.
Here’s a more detailed (and most likely incomplete) list of the Blair’s teams:
● 1939 Mineola Black Spiders | LINK
● 1940 Booker T. Washington High | LINK (race against Jesse Owens)
● 1940 Dallas Green Monarchs | LINK
● 1943 Dallas Green Monarchs | LINK
● 1946 Cincinnati Crescents (Apr) | LINK
● 1946 Amarillo Red Sox (Aug) | LINK (team managed by Johnnie Carter)*
● 1947 Detroit Senators (May) | LINK (team managed by Johnnie Carter -- Blair introduced Ernie Banks to Johnnie Carter in 1948, which led to Carter inviting the then 17-year old softball player to join the barnstorming Detroit Senators.)
● 1947 Dallas Green Monarchs (Sep) | LINK
● 1948 Indianapolis Clowns | LINK
● 1949 Dallas Black Giants | LINK
● 1948-1951 -- It’s reported that Blair pitched a no-hitter in Denver’s Mile High Stadium. That ballpark opened in 1948 as Bears Stadium, and Blair says his final year in baseball was 1951. A record of his no-hitter has not been located yet, but I am listing it here as a lead for other baseball historians to pursue.)
In the baseball lore of how Banks came to join the KC Monarchs is a game in which James “Cool Papa” Bell was impressed with the young shortstop after watching him in action on the field. In May 1949, the Monarchs defeated the Colts, 6 to 5, in Lubbock, Texas.
This game would be the final time the two clubs battled that season, making it the last opportunity for Bell to have witnessed Banks play on a diamond. Despite this legendary tale involving “Cool Papa”, Banks is not mentioned in any of the pre- or post-game series reports.
The Monarchs defeated the Colts, 7 to 4 a week earlier at Oiler Park, Odessa, TX. None of the former Dallas Black Giants -- Banks, Foot Parker, Curtis Searcy -- were mentioned in this post-game recap either, suggesting that the match-up in Lubbock is the first time for Banks and his teammates to join the Amarillo Colts and compete against the Monarchs.
And finally, it is a common misperception that Buck O’Neil signed Ernie Banks (to both the Monarchs and the Cubs). It was not Buck. Instead, that credit goes to William “Dizzy” Dismukes, a former Negro Leagues pitcher who served as a scout for the Monarchs in the early 1950s. See details below:
Banks confirms that is was indeed Dizzy Dismukes who signed him, when he completing his Professional Baseball Weiss Questionnaire in 1953.