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: 9780316318631
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 30,994
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(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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Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
An absolute gem of a baseball book! The author truly captures the sometimes complicated life of the Hall of Famer in his extensively researched and eloquently written classic. I could not put the book down. I am a 68 year old baseball fanatic who has read almost all the baseball literary treasures and "Let's Play Two" definitely ranks in my Top Ten list! A must read.
Dee_Arr 11 months ago
Maybe the years have rolled by and nowadays there might be many who don’t know who said those words and the impact they had on baseball and the nation. To me, they epitomized the character of a fantastic ballplayer, one I thoroughly enjoyed as I spent my youth in the suburbs of Chicago. I still remember my father telling me that even if the rest of the team wasn’t hitting, you could count on Ernie Banks regularly swatting balls out of the park. Author Ron Rapoport hits a grand slam with his book on Ernie. “Let’s Play Two” is a revealing look at not only a talented athlete, but the man who quietly gave so many years to the Chicago Cubs, a team that spent most of his career out of contention. The book is amazing, and the extensive list of sources – interviews and publications -- explains why. Along the way, Mr. Rapoport fleshes out the story in many directions. Ernie Banks was brought to the Cubs in the early days when most players were white and fans were still not used to black players on the roster. The author does not shy away from the racism, and recounts numerous stories that are hard to believe 55-65 years later. Players like Banks quietly took the abuse and internalized it. The glory and the pain of 1969 is relived, bringing back the memories that evince flashes of a rollercoaster ride that climbed to such heights and then swiftly rocketed back down to the bottom. While we see Ernie on this trip, there are plenty of moments that help us to understand the make-up of Cubs roster as well as the rest of the league. Overall, an informative book that provides plenty of backdrop to help explain the central character. Ernie Banks was a hometown hero and the player that every team in the league wanted to have. Mr. Rapoport artfully explains this in what is probably the best sports biography I have ever read. Five stars. My thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Books for an advance complimentary copy of this book.