Ernie Banks will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with legendary basketball coach Dean Smith. President Barack Obama made the announcement regarding the two Hall of Famers on Thursday.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is regarded as the highest civilian honor awarded in the United States. It is an award reserved only for individuals "who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House.
Affectionately known as Mr. Cub, Banks spent his entire 19-year career on the North Side of Chicago. An 11-time All-Star, Banks won back-to-back National League MVP Awards in 1958-59 and finished his career with 512 home runs. He was elected to join baseball's elite in Cooperstown as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1977.
The White House will announce the specific date on which the medals will be awarded to Banks and Smith, who was college basketball's winningest coach at the time of his retirement in 1997.
Banks joins baseball legends Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Buck O'Neil, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams in receiving the Medal of Freedom.
Other sports-related recipients include Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Earl Blaik, Paul Bryant, Billie Jean King, Robert J.H. Kiphuth, Jack Nicklaus, Jesse Owens, Arnold Palmer, Richard Petty, Bill Russell, John Wooden and Pat Summitt, who received the honor last year.
Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.