TIME NFL

49 Super Bowl Facts You Should Know Before Super Bowl XLIX

The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz, where Super Bowl XLIX will take place on Feb. 1, 2015.
The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz, where Super Bowl XLIX will take place on Feb. 1, 2015. Charlie Riedel—AP

Here are some numbers you may not know ahead of the 49th Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is upon us again, and for the 49th time, the AFC and NFC (or AFL and NFL in the early days) will meet to determine the championship of professional American football.

You’ll hear all sorts of numbers being thrown around about the game, covering everything from the price of a ticket to the odds of Bill Belichick going sleeves or no sleeves on his hoodie. There are Super Bowl record numbers to be broken by players and teams alike each year.

But here are some numbers you may or may not know, each one corresponding to 1-49, to celebrate Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Az.

49: The number of yards in the longest fumble return for a TD in Super Bowl history, by Mike Bass in SB VII

48: The most Super Bowl points scored in a career, Jerry Rice

47: The number of concession stands at this year’s venue, University of Phoenix Stadium

46: The number of seasons since the New York Jets last played in a Super Bowl, the longest drought in the NFL

45: The largest point margin of victory in a Super Bowl, as the 49ers beat the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV

44: The percent of people who eat chicken wings during the Super Bowl that prefer bleu cheese dressing to ranch

43: The number of different Super Bowl MVPs there have been

42: The age of the oldest player to participate in a Super Bowl, Matt Stover

41: The number of the first Super Bowl to be won by an African-American coach, Tony Dungy

40: The number (in thousands) that a 30-second commercial cost in Super Bowl I

MORE The NFL Hasn’t Talked to Tom Brady About ‘Deflategate’

39: The temperature in Fahrenheit at the coldest Super Bowl on record, Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium

38: The most rushing attempts in one Super Bowl, John Riggins in SB XVII

37: The number of times the Super Bowl was played in January rather than February

36: The fewest combined rushing attempts in a Super Bowl, Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh in SB XLV

35: The most points scored in the first half of a Super Bowl, the Washington Redskins in SB XXII

34: The number of languages in which the Super Bowl will be broadcast

33: The percentage of Americans who will place some sort of wager on the Super Bowl

32: The lowest completion percentage by a team in a Super Bowl, Denver in SB XII

31: The most points scored by a losing team in the Super Bowl, Dallas in SB XIII and San Francisco in SB XLVII

30: The age of Katy Perry, this year’s halftime performer

MORE 5 Ways This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Will Be Like No Other

29: The fewest rushing yards for a winning Super Bowl team, St. Louis in SB XXXIV30: The age of Katy Perry, this year’s halftime performer

28: The number of white-shirted (visiting) teams who have won the Super Bowl

27: The number of times a quarterback wearing number 12 played in the Super Bowl

26: The number of times a quarterback has been named Super Bowl MVP

25: The largest Super Bowl halftime point lead, Washington in SB XXII

24: The number of times the coin toss has turned up both heads and tails at a Super Bowl

23: The number of different TV color commentators during Super Bowl broadcasts

22: The number of different stadiums in which the Super Bowl has been held

21: The lowest combined score in Super Bowl history, when the Miami Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII

20: The number of years that the series finale of M.A.S.H was the most watched program in television history until Super Bowl XLIV

MORE How to Get to the Bottom of ‘Deflategate’

19: The number of current NFL teams who have won the Super Bowl

18: The number of different cities who have hosted a Super Bowl

17: The average number of people at a Super Bowl party

16: The number of most consecutive completions in one Super Bowl, by Tom Brady in SB XLVI

15: The percent of Super Bowl viewers estimated to tune in to the game on their smartphone or mobile device

14: The Super Bowl number that had the largest crowd to date. 103,985 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Ca.

13: The most receptions in one Super Bowl, Demaryius Thomas in SB XLVIII

12: The longest number of seasons between Super Bowl championships for one player, Ray Lewis. (XXXV-XLVII)

11: The number of times the Super Bowl has been a rematch of two teams

10: The number of times a defensive or special teams player has been named Super Bowl MVP

MORE Deflategate Is Yet Another Bogus Scandal

9: The millions of pounds of guacamole estimated to be consumed on Super Bowl Sunday

8: The number of teams who have only played in one Super Bowl in their history9: The millions of pounds of guacamole estimated to be consumed on Super Bowl Sunday

7: The number of times a running back has been named Super Bowl MVP

6: The number of dollars a ticket to Super Bowl I would have cost you.

5: The most losses by any one team in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos

4: The number of current NFL teams who have never played in a Super Bowl (Detroit, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Houston)

3: The lowest number of points scored by a single team in the Super Bowl, the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI

2: The number of teams who have played in four Super Bowls without winning one, Minnesota and Buffalo

1: The number of times the opening kickoff in a Super Bowl was returned for a touchdown, Devin Hester in SB XLI

This article originally appeared on Fansided.com.

Read next: Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy Debunk Belichick’s ‘Deflategate’ Theory

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME NFL

The NFL Is Finally on YouTube

NFL: NFC Championship-Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
January 18, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks tight end Luke Willson (82) catches a pass for a two point conversion against the defense of Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) during the second half in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports - RTR4LX3U © USA Today Sports / Reuters

Its YouTube channel won't feature live streaming but will have analysis, non-live highlights and recaps

The National Football League and Google have partnered up to allow content and clips to be posted on YouTube.

The NFL YouTube channel, which has already launched, offers game previews, in-game highlights and recaps. It will not, at this point, include live-streaming, according to the Associated Press.

”The focus is on non-live highlights,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Under the deal, Google will pay a multi-million dollar up-front fee annually for the right to broadcast the videos and will split additional revenue with the NFL, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The NFL meticulously protects its video content and until this new agreement legal videos were only available on its website, or that of a broadcast partner.

Previously, transcendent moments like Odell Beckham Jr’s “greatest play ever” were uploaded to YouTube by amateur videographers pointing a camera (or more likely a camera-phone) at a television set. The official YouTube site already features a playlist called “Best of Odell Beckham Jr” where viewers can find a much higher quality version of his amazing catch.

[Associated Press]

TIME Football

Watt Gets 2 Turnovers, Dances in Friendly Pro Bowl

Pro Bowl Football
Houston Texans' J.J. Watt poses for a selfie with St. Louis Rams' Robert Quinn after Team Irvin defeated Team Carter 32-28 in the NFL Football Pro Bowl on Jan. 25, 2015 Mark Humphrey—AP

Winners received $55,000 apiece, losers $28,000

(GLENDALE, Ariz.) — Few moved very fast, no one flattened a quarterback and there were no bone-jarring hits in the gentle, friendly version of football played at the Pro Bowl Sunday.

Even in a game dominated by offense, J.J. Watt was the star.

The Texans defensive end intercepted pass, recovered a fumble and led the crowd in dances during commercial breaks.

Team Irvin defeated 32-28 Watt’s Team Carter, but the score is never important in the NFL’s all-star game. Everyone seemed to have a good time, particularly Watt, the game’s defensive MVP.

Other memorable moments came from Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who dunked over the crossbar twice after TD catches — this time with no penalty, and Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. who made a diving grab at midfield.

Graham’s second touchdown, on a 1-yard, fourth-down pass from Matt Ryan, was the winning TD with 3:10 to play.

Greg Olsen and Emmanuel Sanders also caught a pair of touchdown passes apiece. Andrew Luck was nearly perfect in his short time on the field, completing 9 of 10 for 119 yards and two scores. Matthew Stafford threw for 316 yards and two TDs and was the offensive MVP.

The Pro Bowl took a one-year hiatus from Hawaii to be played in the desert to coincide with the big game. A sellout crowd of 63,225 watched at University of Phoenix Stadium as the teams moved up and down the field, often without much resistance.

If the players missed the beach, they wouldn’t let on.

“It’s been fantastic,” Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said. “The turnout here at the stadium is just like an NFL game.”

Romo knew this wasn’t a real NFL game.

“It’s a blast,” Stafford said. “To able to play with the best in the world is a whole lot of fun, and everybody is such good people, too. I am out here having a good time.”

The NFL scrapped the AFC vs. NFC format last year in favor of having two big-name former players draft players four days before the game. This year, the honor went to Michael Irvin and Cris Carter.

There were teammates playing against teammates.

When Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson made a pretty fingertip touchdown catch from Drew Brees for Team Carter. He celebrated with his Packers teammate Clay Matthews, who was playing for the other team.

Beckham dove to the ground and gathered in Stafford’s long pass just as the ball was about to hit the ground. When Graham caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Stafford, he soared to dunk the ball over crossbar. The New Orleans tight end was fined $30,000 when he did that twice, and was penalized both times, in a preseason game. There was no penalty on Sunday.

“I really wanted to catch one here because this is I guess the only place I can dunk without a flag,” Graham said. “But you know, the league called down and told me not to hang on it, so I didn’t.”

The goal posts were narrowed to from 18.6 feet to 14 feet on all kicks, not just PATs as had been previously announced. The PATs also were moved back to make it a 33-yard kick.

The skinny posts claimed an unlikely victim when Adam Vinatieri missed two PATs. The 42-year-old Colts kicker hasn’t missed an extra point in real games in five years. He also missed a 38-yard field goal.

Another rule was no blitzing. Denver’s Von Miller violated that one and, on the next play after the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Luck threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to his Indianapolis teammate T.Y. Hilton.

“It’s very special, the chemistry that we have,” Hilton said.

Winners got what amounts to pocket change for them — $55,000 apiece, losers $28,000.

TIME NFL

How to Get to the Bottom of ‘Deflategate’

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots looks to pass in the first quatter against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., on Jan. 18, 2015 Jared Wickerham—Getty Images

Tips for NFL investigators from forensics experts

You may have heard that the NFL has written a lousy piece of legislation. Make sure the air pressure of the football meets certain pounds per square inch (PSI) standards two hours and fifteen minutes before kickoff, then hand the ball back to the teams, who are free to pop the balloon a bit. Unless, apparently, the Indianapolis Colts complain.

That’s like a kindergarten teacher taking morning attendance, tearing through the ABCs, and then signing off before snack-time. My work here’s done kids, take care of yourselves until lunch.

Because of such silliness, here we are. Bill Belichick calls an impromptu news conference Saturday afternoon to explain that, according to New England’s internal investigation, it’s the physics, people: The climate, combined with the team’s pre-game “rubbing process,” explains how New England’s balls got deflated before halftime. Bill Nye, the science guy, debunked Belichick’s explanation.

But don’t fear, the NFL will get to the bottom of this. On Friday, the league said it has launched an investigation into the matter, and has already interviewed 40 people. Ignore the NFL’s Keystone Cop attempt to secure the Ray Rice video: This investigation, the league promises, will be different. “We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence,” the NFL said in a statement. The rulebook’s reluctance to demand that neutral observers babysit the footballs before and during the games is going to cost the NFL, as it’s now hired outside help. The league has retained an “investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.”

Physical evidence, forensics: How can the CSI bunch possibly crack a case where the crime scene is a friggin’ football, and the potential murder weapon a needle? “Yeah, this is a tough case,” says Mary Ellen O’Toole, program director of George Mason University’s Department of Forensic Science and an FBI agent for 28 years. “But the high risk component in this case, combined with the analytical way they’ll go through the forensics, bring it down to the realm of, Yeah, this case could be solvable.”

How? First, look for the needle marks. “I believe a microscopic examination of the valve, as well as the bladder, might show if they used the same instrument to inflate and potentially deflate,” says Kimberly Rule, forensic science professor at George Mason. If the Patriots balls show more needle marks than the Colts balls, or different patterns suggest one needle inflated, and another deflated, human tampering could be at play.

MORE ‘Deflategate’ Is Yet Another Bogus Scandal

One problem: Such physical evidence can’t be time-stamped, making it near impossible to prove that someone tinkered with the balls after the refs inspected them two hours and fifteen minutes prior to kickoff. Another possible hiccup is the texture of the valve where the needle is placed. “You’re talking about rubber, not a harder medal, like on a gun,” says Mark Flood, coordinator the forensic science program at Fairmont State University in West Virginia. “It’s less likely to leave a clear mark.”

Fingerprint and DNA evidence could prove even more elusive. “People tend to think that we get the fingerprint, we’ll confront the person, and they’ll fold like a card table,” says O’Toole. “That’s what they see on TV, but that’s not the way it is in the real world.” Many hands had access to those footballs before they were removed by halftime—ballboys, referees, players on both teams.

One potential Hail Mary: If the forensics show that someone who wouldn’t normally have access to the balls got their hands on them, the investigators can question what they were doing. Maybe a back-office employee, or someone of that ilk—not a ballboy, or on-field personnel. Still, the science only goes so far. “A fingerprint of DNA is not going to give us intention of tampering,” says Rule.

The electronic evidence is more likely to yield a verdict. “They’ll sweep cell phones—maybe there was a damning text message,” says Paul Massey, forensic science lecturer at the University of New Haven. “They’ll look at video. If the footage doesn’t show someone actually deflating the football, the investigators could find that someone tampered with the video. Is someone hiding something?”

The Nixonian intrigue knows no end. Maybe a Deep Throat comes forward. Maybe the snoops piece together a surprise timeline. Maybe they come up empty.

Or maybe everyone settles down and just enjoys the Super Bowl. Ha. You don’t need a detective’s badge to figure out that’s not happening.

TIME College Basketball

Duke Basketball Coach Is First to Get 1,000 Wins

Duke v St John's
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teamates after his 1000th career win after the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden on January 25, 2015 in New York City. Nate Shron—Getty Images

A big day for Mike Krzyzewski

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski became the first NCAA Division I men’s coach to reach 1,000 career wins on Sunday when the Blue Devils defeated St. John’s 77-68 at Madison Square Garden.

Duke surged to an early lead before falling behind by as many as 10 points with 10:51 remaining in the game, but the Blue Devils rallied, closing out the game on a 28-9 run. The Blue Devils finished behind 22 points from Tyus Jones and 17 from star forward Jahlil Okafor. Sir’Dominic Pointer poured in 21 points and nine rebounds for the Red Storm.

Krzyzewski credited the shift in the game to the play of Marshall Plumlee.

“It was tough to get involved with 1,000,” Krzyzewski said. “I was just trying to survive this game.”

“Outside of Cameron, this is the best, because it’s revered,” he said of reaching the milestone in Madison Square Garden. “This is the palace. This is the best place. For a long time today I didn’t think it would end up with a win.”

Had St. John’s held on to the lead down the stretch, one play late in the first half might have made a history-altering difference.

With seconds remaining in the first half, St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrisoncaught a pass from Rysheed Jordan and made a three-point attempt after the shot clock expired.

As several commentators noted, the made shot was ruled good and officials did not review the replay despite it taking place after the shot clock expired.

Rule 11, Section 2, Article 1, Subsection E of the NCAA rule book states that replay equipment may be used:

In the last two minutes of the second period and overtime(s), to determine the following: 1. Whether a shot clock violation occurred. 2. Which team caused the ball to go out of bounds when there is a deflection involving two or more players.

The shot ended up not mattering, and Krzyzewski reached 1,000 victories on the same court where he surpassed his mentor, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight, in the career wins column.

Duke will play Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday.

 

TIME NFL

Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy Debunk Belichick’s ‘Deflategate’ Theory

"What he said didn't make any sense"

 

Wondering who would be the first prominent scientist to come out against New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s explanation for the under-inflated balls his team was accused using during the NFL playoffs last Sunday?

No? Well, we were. And since Neil deGrasse Tyson didn’t step up to the plate, it had to be Bill Nye.

Belichick’s “internal review” offered a variety of reasons why the team’s footballs wound up under-inflated – everything from “atmospheric conditions” to “air pressure.” He added that the team’s process of breaking in footballs by rubbing them altered the pressure in the ball.

Nye was not impressed. “What he said didn’t make any sense,” Nye told ABC News on Sunday. “Rubbing the football – I don’t think you can change the pressure [that way].”

Nye does close his segment by saying, “Go Seahawks,” so he’s an admittedly impartial judge.

Tyson, do you want to weigh in?

This article originally appeared on People.com.

Read next: How to Get to the Bottom of ‘Deflategate’

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME deflategate

Patriots Coach Denies Wrongdoing After Internal Deflategate Investigation

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick Press Conference
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks to the media during a press conference to address the under inflation of footballs used in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 22, 2015 in Foxboro, Mass. Maddie Meyer—Getty Images

Atmospheric pressure, rubbing process blamed instead

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Saturday that a vigorous preparation process and atmospheric changes—not any tampering by his team—were to blame for the deflated game balls used in the first half of the Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. According to Belichick, preparing the balls for use in a game artificially inflates their pressure, while taking them outdoors causes their pressure to drop.

In a soporific yet surreal press conference Saturday afternoon, Belichick offered what he said will be his final response to the unlikely “deflategate” uproar that has consumed much of the week. Like every press conference conference to result from this scandal, it offered a bonanza for the puerile-humor types out there. But it also had the equivalent of a high-school thermodynamics lesson.

Belichick said that a Patriots investigation this week found that a ball’s pressure might fall by a pound-per-square-inch or more when it leaves the controlled climate of the officials’ locker room and reaches its equilibrium on the field. He declined to comment on the particulars of Sunday’s atmospheric conditions and ball-handling protocol, referring those questions to the NFL.

Belichick said, “I’m embarrassed to talk about all the time I’ve put into this…I’m not a scientist.” He added, “I’m not the Mona Lisa Vito of the football world,” referencing Marisa Tomei’s Oscar-winning turn as an accidental tire forensics expert in 1992’s My Cousin Vinny. So who is? These questions need answers.

TIME NBA

Watch: The Warriors’ Klay Thompson Had the Best Quarter of All Time

Video tells the tale

Until Friday night, the NBA record for most points scored in a period belonged to George “Iceman” Gervin, who dropped 33 for the San Antonio Spurs one night in April ’78 (he had a scoring title to clinch), and to Carmelo Anthony, who scored 33 for the Nuggets against Minnesota in December 2008. Gervin could shoot, and so could—can?—Anthony.

But neither has anything on the league’s reigning assassin, the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson, who managed 37 points in a fiery third quarter against the sad-sack Sacramento Kings. (The Warriors, overall, had 41 points in the quarter.) Thompson went 13-for-13 from the field, including nine-of-nine from three-point range. He tied the record for most field goals in a quarter, and set a new record for most three-pointers. And he added in two free throws for good measure. SB Nation’s Seth Rosenthal has all the oohing and aching you’ll need, and Ray Ratto has the local color but for now behold this: With the win, the Warriors advanced to 35-6, five and a half games better than any comer the stellar West has to offer. They’re 9-1 in their last 10 and 20-1 at home. Good luck trying to catch them.

TIME deflategate

Deflategate Is Yet Another Bogus Scandal

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski #87 (not pictured) in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Mass. Jim Rogash—Getty Images

Under-inflated pigskins are not, at least in terms of competitive balance, a big deal

Last year, as noted by Slate but also by most everyone with antennae for such things, was a year characterized by outrage. Some of it registered to these eyes as earnest, some of it not so much—but 2014 may as well have been characterized by the absence of reliable, responsible arbitrators. Whether out of academia-drilled rigid lefty deference, or out of mere laziness, the b.s.-spotters took a holiday. This is why the year felt like one extended apology tour for Lena Dunham, this is why a software company with a market cap of $36 billion went on Twitter to announce that it stood against bullying. Crazy times, October.

To judge by the first month of 2015, and especially by our most treasured cultural institution—the NFL playoffs—this year is shaping up to be similarly brutal. The story, for those lucky enough to have missed it: The New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs for the first half of their 45-7 semifinal triumph over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. “Deflategate” or “Ballghazi.” The NFL has firm standards for how inflated each ball should be, but the balls are returned to each team after a referee’s pre-game inspection. Each offense has its own balls, yes, due to the league’s foolish but by now unsurprising insistence on putting confounding vagaries in its rulebook. ESPN talked up proper PSI so much in the ensuing days you’d think the network had a deal with Pep Boys. The Patriots’ principals, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, told assembled media members in amusing Thursday press conferences that they had no idea how such a thing happened. (Brady has, naturally, previously expressed a fondness for under-inflated balls—so it happened, probably, with a ball boy’s needle.) “Balls” was uttered so often that any 13-year-old would have broken down giggling. The serious middle-aged NFL media members, though, needed no help containing themselves.

It should be stated plainly: This is not, at least in terms of competitive balance, a big deal. It’s like getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar. But the popular uproar has been louder. At the heart of the sentiment against the Patriots—significant enough, by the way, that the league has retained the same investigative horsepower it deployed on the genuinely odious Miami Dolphins bullying scandal—is the notion that deflating the balls constituted some sort of more grievous sin against fair play.

Who could possibly believe this? Everyone lets a little air out of the pigskin, as former quarterback Matt Leinart has said. Deflated balls are easier to grip and catch; they give the offense an advantage, just like rub routes or hasty substitution patterns. No one could claim these evasions (equally deliberate, equally practiced) merit suspension. It’s gamesmanship, nothing more, and there ought to be an in-game penalty for it, if the referee susses out a slightly shriveled one.

Yet grievances full of chirping and false equivalencies have owned the week. Richard Sherman wants to know why the league won’t suspend Brady or Belichick. Former quarterback Mark Brunell nearly broke down on ESPN. A reporter even suggested Brady had done wrong by Uggs, his sponsor.

It’s thrilling and fun to watch the tarring of an evil empire—Belichick and Brady have been so good and so ruthless for so long—but it’s toxic when it happens like this. What do the chattering classes want? Should the NFL conduct yet another dawdling investigation to exonerate and venerate itself, when its own bad governance is to blame? Sounds like that’s the plan. All the while, we’re stripped slowly of our sense of proportion. I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone.

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.”

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