TIME Baseball

Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks Dies at 83

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason

Even as the Chicago Cubs lost one game after another, Ernie Banks never lost hope.

That was the charm of “Mr. Cub.”

Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who always maintained his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite decades of playing on miserable teams, died Friday night. He was 83.

The Cubs announced Banks’ death, but did not provide a cause.

Banks hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career and was fond of saying, “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.” In fact, that sunny finish to his famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field.

And on a cold winter night Friday in Chicago, the ballpark marquee carried the sad news for the entire town to see: Ernie Banks. “Mr. Cub.” 1931-2015.

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.”

“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”

In a statement Saturday, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama expressed their condolences “to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him.” The president said Banks became known as much for his optimism and love of the game as his home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs.

“As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago,” President Obama said. “He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class — “Mr. Cub” — is ready to play two.”

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason. The Cubs, who haven’t won the World Series since 1908, finished below .500 in all but six of his seasons and remain without a pennant since 1945.

Still, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible, and was selected to baseball’s All-Century team in 1999.

Banks’ infectious smile and non-stop good humor despite his team’s dismal record endeared him to Chicago fans, who voted him the best player in franchise history. One famous admirer, actor Bill Murray, named his son Homer Banks Murray.

In 2013, Banks was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — by a noted Chicago White Sox fan, President Barack Obama. The award is one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

“Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago’s greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved — and lived for — the game of baseball,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two.”

Banks’ No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and it hangs on a flag from the left-field foul pole at the old ballpark.

“I’d like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers,” he once said. “That was what I always wanted to do.”

But even without an opportunity to play on the October stage, Banks left an indelible mark that still resonates with fans and athletes from all sports.

“Ernie Banks… We are going to all miss you. #Legend,” quarterback Russell Wilson tweeted as he and the Seattle Seahawks were getting ready to defend their Super Bowl title.

Banks was playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues when the Cubs discovered him in 1953, and purchased his contract for $10,000. He made his major league debut at shortstop on Sept. 17 that year, and three days later hit his first home run.

Tall and thin, Banks didn’t look like a typical power hitter. He looked even less so as he stood at the plate, holding his bat high and wiggling it as he waited for pitches. But he had strong wrists and a smooth, quick stroke, and he made hitting balls out of the park look effortless.

When he switched to a lighter bat before the 1955 season, his power quickly became apparent. He hit 44 homers that season, including three against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 4. His five grand slams that year established a major league record that stood for more than 30 years before Don Mattingly hit six in 1987.

Banks’ best season came in 1958, when he hit .313 with 47 homers and 129 RBIs. Though the Cubs went 72-82 and finished sixth in the National League, Banks edged Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for his first MVP award. He was the first player from a losing team to win the NL MVP.

Banks won the MVP again in 1959, becoming the first NL player to win it in consecutive years, even though the Cubs had another dismal year. Banks batted .304 with 45 homers and a league-leading 143 RBIs.

He led the NL in homers again in 1960 with 41, his fourth straight season with 40 or more. His 248 homers from 1955-60 were the most in the majors, topping even Aaron and Mays.

“Mr Cub. What you have done for the game of baseball the city of Chicago and everyone you have ever touched will never be forgotten. RIP,” tweeted Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Though Banks didn’t break the 40-homer barrier again after 1960, he topped the 100-RBI mark three more times, including 1969, his last full season. Then 38, he hit .253 with 23 home runs and 106 RBIs, and was chosen an All-Star for an 11th time.

On May 12, 1970, he hit his 500th home run at Wrigley Field, becoming only the eighth player at the time to reach the plateau.

Banks retired after the 1971 season. He owned most of the Cubs’ career slugging records, some of which still stand today.

Known mostly for his power at the plate, Banks was a solid fielder, too. He is best known as a shortstop, where he won a Gold Glove in 1960, but he switched to first base in 1962. He played 1,259 games at first and 1,125 games at shortstop.

Born and raised in Dallas, Banks would be bribed to play catch by his father, who always wanted him to be a baseball player. Banks grew to love the game and was a standout in high school, along with participating in football, basketball and track and field.

He joined a barnstorming Negro Leagues team at 17 and was spotted by Cool Papa Bell, who signed him to the Monarchs in 1950. Banks played one season before going into the Army. He returned to Kansas City after he was discharged, playing one more season before joining the Cubs.

“He was one of the great crossover baseball players of his day,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said. “His personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms.”

TIME Football

NFL Says Patriots Likely Used Deflated Balls in First Half of Colts Game

The league says its "Deflategate" investigation is ongoing and has included interviews with almost 40 people

The NFL released a statement on its investigation into Deflategate on Friday.

The league said it has conducted nearly 40 interviews so far, including of “Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties with relevant information and expertise.” It also continues to obtain evidence in the form of video and other electronic information.

The NFL said the evidence “thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half.” The league confirmed that prior to the game, the balls were all tested and found to be of satisfactory inflation, and that the balls were all properly inflated for the second half and remained that way.

As it continues its investigation, the NFL retained the investigatory firm Renaissance Associates, who use sophisticated forensic expertise to “assist in reviewing electronic and video information.” From the NFL:

The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action. We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence.

The league said the Patriots have pledged their “full cooperation” and have made both personnel and information available for the investigation.

On Thursday, New England quarterback Tom Brady said he “didn’t alter the balls in any way,” while coach Bill Belichick said he was shocked to hear about the controversy.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME MLB

Bye Bye, Bud: Selig Left His Mark On Baseball

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks to the media at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2014. Jim McIsaac—Getty Images

Bud Selig was never the most charismatic public face of baseball. But his job was never to inspire

One thing everyone can agree on: It’s the right time for Bud Selig to hand over the keys.

Selig, baseball’s commissioner since 1992, officially leaves the job Saturday. Rob Manfred, a long-time deputy, takes over. Selig, 80, took baseball to a new place. He’s left his mark. Let’s see what the new guy can do. (Manfred seems fond, for example, of trying to speed up the game. That’s good news.)

Bud Selig was never the most charismatic public face of baseball. But his job was never to inspire. In sports, the players, and sometimes the coaches, do that. Commissioners are tasked with growing their sports for their bosses—the owners—and keeping the games fair. Baseball produces almost $10 billion in annual revenue; the game made just over a billion yearly when Selig took over. Local television deals, in particular, are flourishing. In a media world obsessed with “content,” baseball, with its 162-game schedule and hot-stove intrigue, benefits. Selig’s team was smart enough to capitalize on this: MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s tech engine, has minted millions. Interleague play, and the expanded playoffs, have been good for business.

As for fair play: The controversy over performance enhancing drugs has been picked over plenty. Whether or not Selig was willfully blind to the 1990’s steroid boom, it happened under his watch. Selig’s push for tougher drug testing wasn’t some heroic response. It was the only prudent one, and testing still has flaws. Remember, Alex Rodriguez may have copped to his 2010-2012 drug use. But he did not fail a test during that time.

Selig instituted revenue sharing, and even teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals, hopeless during most of Selig’s tenure, eventually became winners. His hawkish approach to controlling labor costs contributed to the 1994 strike. Like steroids, the work stoppage stains his resume. But since that disaster, baseball has enjoyed two decades of labor peace. Selig deserves some credit.

He also deserves blame for one of the dumbest polices in sports: giving home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game, instead of the team with the better record. This gimmick defies logic and fairness. Manfred should reverse it.

One of Manfred’s more serious challenges will be to bring more cultural cachet back to baseball. That unquantifiable spark, buzz, whatever you want to call it. The game consists of thriving fiefdoms, but lacks the national bonds we’ve seen with players in other sports, like LeBron James and Peyton Manning. Baseball’s gone hyper-local: You can obsessively watch your team daily, on all kinds of devices. Maybe Manfred will tap into some marketing magic to make more young people fall for Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, and other emergent stars. Maybe he’ll push baseball beyond the bottom line.

That’s something Selig just wasn’t wired to do.

TIME Sports

See Photos of an Early Version of Frisbee on a College Green in 1950

Before Wham-O began selling Frisbees on this day in 1957, college students made do with another kind of flying disc

There’s no dispute around the fact that Fred Morrison sold the rights to his “Pluto Platter,” the object that would later become known as the Frisbee, to the Wham-O toy company in 1957. But the makeshift predecessor to the plastic Frisbee–a pie tin repurposed for a game of catch–has a murkier origin story.

Morrison said that he and his then-future wife used to toss popcorn container lids to one another, and later cake pans. Local lore in New Haven, Conn., pegs the pie tin tradition to Yale students who began tossing tins from the Frisbie Pie Company–based up the road in Bridgeport–as early as the 1920s. But even among New Haven old-timers, there is disagreement as to whether the tradition originated on campus or was brought there by students returning from war.

Regardless of who thought of it first, these photographs of students at Kenyon College in Ohio tossing around a pie tin in 1950 provide visual evidence of the pastime’s popularity. Though the more organized sport of Ultimate Frisbee wasn’t conceived until the late 1960s, some of the photos suggest a group activity that extends beyond a simple game of catch.

The photos, which never ran in LIFE, were made by Eliot Elisofon for a story about the changing place of the “Educated Man” in contemporary society. The photos that did accompany the article, published in October 1950, featured students in the midst of more academic pursuits–hunched over books and practicing Latin, for example. Though the author, historian and philosopher Jacques Barzon, wrote much about baseball during his long career, he didn’t concern himself much with sport here. “We can understand hobbies,” he wrote, but “we tend to fear scholarly studies.”

Once Wham-O began selling the Frisbee seven years after these images were made, the toy’s popularity soared, thanks to a baby boom that significantly increased the number of children looking for toys to play with and parents’ growing disposable income to buy them with. An increasingly sophisticated plastic industry also contributed to the Frisbee’s aerodynamic design.

Though the Bridgeport factory closed in 1958, Frisbie brand pies are made today in Worcester, Mass. So even today, you can have your pie and throw it, too.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME tennis

Andreas Seppi Upsets Roger Federer in Australian Open Third Round

XXX of ZZZZ plays a forehand in his/her third round match against XXXX of ZZZZZ during day five of the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.
Roger Federer looks on during his match against Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 23, 2015 Quinn Rooney—Getty Images

MELBOURNE — Three quick thoughts on Andreas Seppi’s upset over Roger Federer on Friday on Rod Laver Arena.

1) The ball wafted in the air, like a balloon caught in a breeze. It was break point in the second set and Andreas Seppi, a 30-year-old Italian journeyman was improbably leading the great Roger Federer. Though Federer could have hit an fairly easy overhead, the balls was veering toward the alley and Federer casually let it bounce. The shot landed gently and kissed the line. And suddenly Seppi was up a set and a break of serve. In those few seconds, Roger Federer’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day here at the Australian Open was duly summarized. He doomed by unfortunate luck, unfortunate decision making and, ultimately an unfortunate result.

In tournament’s biggest upset, Federer was dispatched in round three, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6. Call this the first major plot point of this event.

2) Let’s unload due credit on Seppi, ranked No. 46. Here is a longtime ATP rank-and-file who scored the signature win of his career. He had never beaten Federer in their 10 career meetings and taken only one set. He was steady and brave today, recovering after losing the third set. There were few flashes of brilliance, but he served steadily, endured a partisan crowd and met the moment in the fourth set tiebreaker—including a brilliant shot on match point—and won the match. But, truly, this result was more about Federer losing than Seppi winning. By any measure, it was a rotten day at the office. His backhand lacked punch. His movement was sluggish. The shanks that were so prevalent in 2013 made an unwelcome reappearance. Leading in the second-set tiebreaker, Federer played a few loose points and quickly lost the set. After a valiant fightback to win the third set, Federer played another lousy tiebreaker—double-faulting away a lead–and it was arrivederci…

3) This result will trigger a round of hand-wringing about the state of Federer universam. Is his body waging war with itself? Is time finally starting to wage war? What the hell happened today? It’s a fair line of inquiry— especially given the caliber of opponent and the dismal stat sheet. But here’s a plea for reason. Less than two weeks ago on the same surface, Federer beat both Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic. Federer has now lost one match this year. Same as Djokovic and Nadal and Nishikori. Federer is unlikely to provide much insight: in 2013, he suffered a string of similar losses and, gamely, didn’t mention a back injury. This isn’t how Federer wanted to start his grand Slam campaign. That’s an understatement. But there’s a lot more tennis to play this year. His season will continue. So will this tournament. Albeit without the biggest star.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NASCAR

Jeff Gordon Will Not Compete for Championship After 2015 Season

2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards - Show
Jeff Gordon speaks during the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on Dec. 5, 2014 Ethan Miller—Getty Images

Four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will run his final full-time season in 2015, he announced on Thursday.

Gordon, 43, has raced in the Cup Series since 1992 for Hendrick Motorsports. He had four wins, three poles and 14 top-fives en route to finishing in sixth place in the Chase last season.

He declined to say he is retiring, because he remains open to racing on a limited basis after this season.

As a race car driver, much of what I’ve done throughout my life has been based on following my instincts and trying to make good decisions,” Gordon said. “I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the offseason, and I’ve decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship. I won’t use the ‘R-word’ because I plan to stay extremely busy in the years ahead, and there’s always the possibility I’ll compete in selected events, although I currently have no plans to do that.

“I don’t foresee a day when I’ll ever step away from racing. I’m a fan of all forms of motor sports, but particularly NASCAR. We have a tremendous product, and I’m passionate about the business and its future success. As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, I’m a partner with Rick (Hendrick) and will remain heavily involved with the company for many years to come. It means so much to have the chance to continue working with the owner who took a chance on me and the incredible team that’s stood behind me every step of the way.

Gordon won his first championship as a 23-year-old in 1994 and also won titles in 1997, 1998 and 2001. His 92 Cup wins and 77 poles are each No. 3 all-time.

He won the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indy Motor Speedway in 1994 and has won the event a record five times. He is also a three-time Daytona 500 champion.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Soccer

Hope Solo’s Husband Driving U.S. Soccer Team Van During DUI Arrest

Hope Solo and husband Jerramy Stevens exit the court room at Kirkland Municipal Court in Washington on Nov. 4, 2014 Suzi Pratt—Getty Images

U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo’s husband was driving a U.S. Soccer van when he was arrested for DUI on Monday morning, Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl reported Thursday on SI Now.

On Wednesday, Solo was suspended 30 days by U.S. Soccer for a “poor decision,” according to U.S. women’s national team head coach Jill Ellis’ statement. U.S. Soccer didn’t offer any more specifics on what led to the suspension.

At 1:30 a.m. on Monday, Solo’s husband — former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens — was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Southern California. Police said Solo was in the car at the time, but she was not arrested or detained. TMZ first reported that Stevens was driving a U.S. Soccer van when he was arrested.

Wahl reports that Solo’s 30-day suspension is due in part to a recent pattern of behavior by the goalkeeper. Last week, a judge dismissed domestic violence charges against Solo.

After the suspension was announced, Solo released a statement on her Facebook page.

I accept and respect the Federation’s decision, and more importantly, I apologize for disappointing my teammates, coaches and the Federation who have always supported me. I think it’s best for me to take a break, decompress from the stress of the last several months, and come back mentally and physically ready to positively contribute to the team.

The suspension will cause Solo to miss February friendlies against France and England. The USWNT, which has already qualified for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, is currently in training camp in Carson, Calif.

Solo has 159 caps with the USWNT and broke the U.S. women’s record for career shutouts last September.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NFL

Watch a Scientist Put ‘Deflategate’ Under the Microscope

The science behind the New England Patriots scandal

The New England Patriots have been under fire amid allegations that 11 of the 12 balls they used in their AFC Championship Game win were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements. While the league has yet to rule on whether the Patriots cheated their way to the Super Bowl—both coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady denied any wrongdoing Thursday—science can give us some answers.

Ainissa Ramirez, scientist and co-author of Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game, breaks down whether the cold weather could account for the footballs deflating about two pounds each, how players might take advantage of a deflated ball, and what players have done to manipulate balls in the past.

TIME Football

Tom Brady on Deflategate: ‘I Didn’t Alter the Balls in Any Way’

"I would never have someone do something that was outside the rules"

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady denied altering the air pressure of the balls used in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

“I didn’t alter the balls in any way,” he said in a press conference on Thursday.

Brady added that he has a “process” he goes through before games where he chooses which balls he wants to use in the game. After choosing the balls, “I don’t want anyone touching them,” he said.

“I would never have someone do something that was outside the rules,” Brady added.

After the Patriots defeated the Colts, New England was accused of playing with balls that were inflated below league requirements. Subsequent investigations found that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 footballs were, in fact, under-inflated by two pounds of air (psi), based on league regulations, sparking reaction all across the NFL. It was later revealed that the 12th football was also under-inflated, but by less than two psi.

It was reported on Wednesday that the 12 footballs were properly inspected and approved by referee Walt Anderson prior to kickoff.

On Thursday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was shocked to hear about the Deflategate controversy and had no explanation for the under-inflated footballs.

On Monday morning, Brady said he had no idea what the controversy was about, and that the under-inflated footballs were the “last of [his] worries.”

The Patriots will play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1. at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME hockey

Angry Hockey Dad Smashes Safety Glass After Penalty Miss

"Way to go, Paul"

Sometimes people get a little too excited about sports, even if that sport is youth hockey. A parent gave a great example of this at recent tournament in York, Penn., when he became upset with a missed penalty call.

The father slaps the glass which somehow deteriorates under his hand sending shards all over the ice.

The York Daily Record spoke with the arena’s president, who said the man wedding ring concentrated the impact causing the safety glass to crumble.

“He broke the (wedding) ring,” Menzer said. “Apparently, his hand wasn’t in great shape either.”

Be sure to listen closely for the parent who drops a perfect “Way to go, Paul” after the refs stop the game while the glass is cleaned up.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

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