Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks

Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks

by Ron Rapoport
Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks

Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks

by Ron Rapoport


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The definitive and revealing biography of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, one of America's most iconic, beloved, and misunderstood baseball players, by acclaimed journalist Ron Rapoport.
Ernie Banks, the first-ballot Hall of Famer and All-Century Team shortstop, played in fourteen All-Star Games, won two MVPs, and twice led the Major Leagues in home runs and runs batted in. He outslugged Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle when they were in their prime, but while they made repeated World Series appearances in the 1950s and 60s, Banks spent his entire career with the woebegone Chicago Cubs, who didn't win a pennant in his adult lifetime.

Today, Banks is remembered best for his signature phrase, "Let's play two," which has entered the American lexicon and exemplifies the enthusiasm that endeared him to fans everywhere. But Banks's public display of good cheer was a mask that hid a deeply conflicted, melancholy, and often quite lonely man. Despite the poverty and racism he endured as a young man, he was among the star players of baseball's early days of integration who were reluctant to speak out about Civil Rights. Being known as one of the greatest players never to reach the World Series also took its toll. At one point, Banks even saw a psychiatrist to see if that would help. It didn't. Yet Banks smiled through it all, enduring the scorn of Cubs manager Leo Durocher as an aging superstar and never uttering a single complaint.

Let's Play Two is based on numerous conversations with Banks and on interviews with more than a hundred of his family members, teammates, friends, and associates as well as oral histories, court records, and thousands of other documents and sources. Together, they explain how Banks was so different from the caricature he created for the public. The book tells of Banks's early life in segregated Dallas, his years in the Negro Leagues, and his difficult life after retirement; and features compelling portraits of Buck O'Neil, Philip K. Wrigley, the Bleacher Bums, the doomed pennant race of 1969, and much more from a long-lost baseball era.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316318624
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 03/03/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 536,946
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Ron Rapoport was a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for more than twenty years and also wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, and the Associated Press. He served as the sports commentator for NPR's Weekend Edition for two decades and has written a number of books about sports and entertainment. He lives in Santa Monica, CA.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Omaha 1

I A Blessed Child

Chapter 1 1717 Fairmount 9

Chapter 2 Booker T. 23

Chapter 3 On the Road 35

Chapter 4 Leaving Home 40

II Apprenticeship

Chapter 5 Monarchs of All They Surveyed 51

Chapter 6 Army Life 62

Chapter 7 "Going to Chicago, Sorry I Can't Take You" 72

III Ernie Banks and Mr. Cub

Chapter 8 North Side, South Side 87

Chapter 9 The Master Builder 95

Chapter 10 Future Shock 107

Chapter 11 MVP! MVP! 112

Chapter 12 The Slough of Despond 124

Chapter 13 The Once and Future Cub 131

Chapter 14 Let's Play Two 140

Chapter 15 The Rock of the Family 151

Chapter 16 Bright College Days 159

Chapter 17 "He Was Why We Fell in Love with the Game" 173

Chapter 18 The Lull Before the Storm 184

IV Himself

Chapter 19 Taking Over 197

Chapter 20 "Daddy, Where Were You?" 209

Chapter 21 Teammates 220

Chapter 22 And Yet So Far 229

Chapter 23 The Most Unpopular Man in Chicago 242

Chapter 24 "This Is Not an Eighth-Place Team" 252

V The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Chapter 25 "Change the Flag!" 259

Chapter 26 Bleacher Bums 268

Chapter 27 In the World 278

Chapter 28 "Break Out the Champagne" 284

Chapter 29 A Bunch of Old Men 302

Chapter 30 Questions and Answers 323

Chapter 31 Riding the Pines 336

Chapter 32 Sunday in America 345

Chapter 33 Coda 354

VI Being Ernie Banks

Chapter 34 Man at Work 361

Chapter 35 Family Ties 379

Chapter 36 "How's Your Wife?" 388

Chapter 37 Rounding Third 397

Epilogue: Graceland 408

Acknowledgments 415

Sources 423

Index 435

What People are Saying About This

Scott Turow

“Growing up, every kid I knew wanted to be Ernie Banks, Chicago's ‘Mr. Cub.' But there was much more to Ernie than his MVP seasons or his famously sunny outward demeanor. LET'S PLAY TWO captures the best of Banks' playing moments, but also delves deeply into a man who did not seem to want you to know more than you could see. Rapoport, a legendary Chicago sportswriter, has written a fascinating, readable, and impeccably researched book about a man who was a Hall of Famer, but also a decided creature of his times.”

Ken Burns

“This is a wonderful book worthy of all the energy and vitality Ernie Banks brought to his remarkable career. But it is also a revealing portrait of the often difficult life of a black ballplayer in America and the often lonely man imprisoned and isolated by his exuberant outer image.”

Author of Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball - Bill Madden

“This is the definitive biography of baseball's Mr. Sunshine, and Ron Rapoport is the one writer who knew him best and could tell it like it was—including the ‘other side of sunshine.'”

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