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

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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 i 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.


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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 i 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dee Arr

    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 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    As a kid I loved following Ernie Banks, lamented that he was never on a good team until the twilight of his career and felt so sad when that finally good Cubs team gave way to the Miracle Mets. So I looked forward to reading this comprehensive biography of him and for the most part, was not disappointed. The title is a reference to the slogan attributed to Banks, "Let's Play Two" his exuberance for playing baseball leading him to wanting to play a second game that day. Books about sports heroes o As a kid I loved following Ernie Banks, lamented that he was never on a good team until the twilight of his career and felt so sad when that finally good Cubs team gave way to the Miracle Mets. So I looked forward to reading this comprehensive biography of him and for the most part, was not disappointed. The title is a reference to the slogan attributed to Banks, "Let's Play Two" his exuberance for playing baseball leading him to wanting to play a second game that day. Books about sports heroes often lead to disillusioning truth about the myths, but here, the book shows that while there is some nuance and PR behind the famous slogan, it is a just reflection on Banks' attitude toward the game. Which made the chapters about Leo Durocher's mean spirited treatment of Banks at the end of his career all the more infuriating, especially given the refuse to take the bait reaction by Banks. While Jackie Robinson was the one who integrated baseball, Ernie Banks was not far behind and suffered the indignities of discrimination as did all the early African American players. The author, Ron Rapoport, rightly details that part of Banks' career. Rapoport also addresses the private life of Banks, details the failed marriages, the shortcomings as a father and the post baseball star ups and downs of his life. I loved the baseball anecdotes, loved the emphasis on baseball during an era when it was still king while enjoying the writing on his non baseball life, though I would recommend this more strongly for those who anticipate reliving the baseball of the fifties and sixties

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Let me preface this by saying I’m a huge Cubs fan. That being said, this book is a interesting tale about a very humble man. Ernie Banks was a quiet public figure who loved his fans. I enjoyed learning about his life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    I’m going to admit, the only thing about Ernie Banks that I knew going into this book was that he was an only timey baseball player thanks to my late grandmother’s love of baseball, but I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately so I was like “why not?” Ron Rapoport does a good job at describing how despite Ernie’s very humble beginnings growing up poor, he still had a very positive outlook on life, a trait that would stay with him for the rest of his life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kev Willoughby

    "I always had the feeling that somewhere in there he was running away from pain." - Wes Parker, Los Angeles Dodgers This was a well-written, but also sad, behind-the-scenes look at one of baseball's brightest personalities. I understood this to be a biographical book about Ernie Banks, and it is, however, this book would be more accurately described as a story about the ups and downs of the Chicago Cubs franchise as a whole during the late 1950s, 60s, and early 70s moreso than a biography, which "I always had the feeling that somewhere in there he was running away from pain." - Wes Parker, Los Angeles Dodgers This was a well-written, but also sad, behind-the-scenes look at one of baseball's brightest personalities. I understood this to be a biographical book about Ernie Banks, and it is, however, this book would be more accurately described as a story about the ups and downs of the Chicago Cubs franchise as a whole during the late 1950s, 60s, and early 70s moreso than a biography, which is usually more narrow in scope. Banks was the major star of the Cubs franchise during those decades, but there is quite a bit of information about other personalities during that era as well, such as Philip Wrigley, Leo Durocher, Ken Hubbs, and other Cubs players and staff (even the Bleacher Bums!). Though I believe the author was trying to portray Banks while giving the reader some context about these other personalities and how they influenced Banks, there were times when I started to forget who I was reading about. Some chapters hardly mention Banks at all, and the story drifts from its main subject multiple times. If you are reading as a Cubs fan (and I am), you won't mind these rabbit trails. If you're not a Cubs fan, it's certainly more information than is necessary, but again, it is all well-written and the book as a whole is an interesting read. The tone of the story was surprising, however. In some ways after reading this, I feel like I understand Banks better, but in other ways, it seems as though no one really knew him. And this is what seemed to rob Banks of his peace of mind as he grew older and his career and his identity began to fade. He was married four times, but never seemed to find love. He had children, but he didn't get to see them grow up because he was making a living as a baseball player. He had friends during his playing days (and after his career), but maybe they were better defined as familiar acquaintances. The author uses Banks' most well-known catch phrase, "Let's Play Two," to demonstrate his surface-level chipper attitude that he was known for. He then spent most of the book describing how, to an extent, this was just a facade to cover his pain. Some who knew him as an opponent or teammate suspected that his disposition was a pretense, but no one knew how close to the truth this really was. Banks, in his interactions with others, was perhaps most remembered for the way he always drove the conversation back to the other person. He didn't want the focus on himself. He was persistent at deflecting attention. What is Banks' legacy? As a baseball player, he will always be remembered as one of the all-time greats. He hit over 500 home runs, was a perennial all-star, and was arguably the greatest player in the history of the Chicago Cubs franchise. Professionally, he was bothered that he never was able to play in a World Series. That seems to be the only blight on his career. He achieved everything else that was within his power or ability. As a person, he will always be remembered as someone who brought joy to others, whether through his celebrity or through his encouragement and support. He had faults, as we all do, and these are portrayed appropriately within the pages of this book. Though most everyone seemed to like him, he never seemed to be at peace with himself. No amount of awards, renown, or financial success can bring that to a person, and in the end, it seemed as though what Banks wanted most was someone to just be there and to understand him. And that can be more difficult for a person to attain than anything.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Joseph

    Mr. Cub. No one person encapsulates what is (or used to mean) to be a Cubs fan. Although we are not, at this time, associated with misery and losing, it is a fabric of our history and legacy. Poor Ernie Banks is what I have to say at the end of this book. It’s predictable, really, that someone that built his reputation as ‘Mr. Sunshine’ would hide a lot of pain and discomfort. You get stuck in a role to play that people come to expect. I see it all the time in my life. Hell, everyone does it to Mr. Cub. No one person encapsulates what is (or used to mean) to be a Cubs fan. Although we are not, at this time, associated with misery and losing, it is a fabric of our history and legacy. Poor Ernie Banks is what I have to say at the end of this book. It’s predictable, really, that someone that built his reputation as ‘Mr. Sunshine’ would hide a lot of pain and discomfort. You get stuck in a role to play that people come to expect. I see it all the time in my life. Hell, everyone does it to an extent. All of those years of playing for wretched Cubs teams took its toll. It’s commendable--remarkable even--that he was able to stay so upbeat. Maybe that was the only natural response to such misery. One thing is for certain: the Chicago Cubs did not deserve Ernie Banks. You get some interesting insights into other characters in Banks’ heyday. Philip K. Wrigley, for example, was a doofus of an owner. People often wonder how the Cubs could be inept for so long and the number one reason is ownership. The man did not know how to run a baseball team. He came off as just kind of dumb to me. The ‘College of Coaches’ experiment was revised as ahead of its time for the modern specialist coaches (hitting, pitching, etc.) but I really think the writer is reaching there. The issue wasn’t one of specialized coaches but managerial authority. The only thing the experiment did successfully was neuter the managerial position for the Cubs. A headless, directionless ball club. It’s not as if the teams would’ve been world beaters in any case. And Leo Durocher, jerk extraordinaire. The way he treated Ernie Banks reminds me of how one of my old bosses use to treat me. If only I was as magnanimous and unfailingly non confrontational as Banks was. It’s easy to pin the demise of the ‘69 Cubs on Durocher’s selfish shoulders since he was so unlikable. It serves as further proof that Baby Boomers suffered the most out of all generations of Cubs fans. Just reading about it was a nightmare. The upstart Mets. The crime of optimism from the lowly Cubs which was pinioned by the Mets and Bob Gibson. It’s true that they got ahead of themselves (Banks included) but could you blame them? Nothing but trash and hell since the 40s. Of course they’d get excited. Banks’ later life was just sad to read about. He seemed lost and lonely. He was determined to only be ‘Mr. Sunshine’ all of the time. He sounded robotic to me. He was all but estranged from his family and the bitter fight over his estate was depressing and predictable. It seems like everyone with money is embroiled in battles after they die. It certainly sounds like this Regina character took advantage of him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    I am not a fan of the Chicago Cubs, but I am a fan of Ernie Banks. I have not read any of the previous biographies of Ernie so I thought that I would give this one a try. While the book is an interesting read, I found it to be somewhat disappointing. Half of the book is  devoted to other players, coaches and managers of the Cubs during Ernie's tenure with the team. It feels like either filler or the author didn't want to spend time doing indepth research on Banks. My suggestion is that you read o I am not a fan of the Chicago Cubs, but I am a fan of Ernie Banks. I have not read any of the previous biographies of Ernie so I thought that I would give this one a try. While the book is an interesting read, I found it to be somewhat disappointing. Half of the book is  devoted to other players, coaches and managers of the Cubs during Ernie's tenure with the team. It feels like either filler or the author didn't want to spend time doing indepth research on Banks. My suggestion is that you read one of the other biographies of Ernie Banks for a more detailed story. I imagine that a reader will enjoy this book more that I did if they are a fan of the Chicago Cubs. I received a free Kindle copy of Let's Plaly Two by Ron Rapoport courtesy of Net Galley  and Hachette Books, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook and Twitter pages. I requested this book as I am a fan of baseball and have always admired Ernie Banks. This is the first book by the author that I have read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    P.e. lolo

    This is the first time I am reading anything about Ernie Banks. I know he played for the Cub’s and that he was called “Mr. Cub” This book gave me the information that I had never heard. He was born and raised in Dallas. That he started in baseball with the Kanas City Monarchs of the old “Negro” league”. With Josh Gibson being his coach and mentor. Someone who gave him guidance on and off the field. His time there really prepared him for the major leagues. He would win Home run titles, MVP, RBI, This is the first time I am reading anything about Ernie Banks. I know he played for the Cub’s and that he was called “Mr. Cub” This book gave me the information that I had never heard. He was born and raised in Dallas. That he started in baseball with the Kanas City Monarchs of the old “Negro” league”. With Josh Gibson being his coach and mentor. Someone who gave him guidance on and off the field. His time there really prepared him for the major leagues. He would win Home run titles, MVP, RBI, but never played in the World Series. The closet they in 69 they went into a slump at the end of the season after being ahead of the Mets by 8 and a half games. Also speaks about the owner of the Cubs Wrigley, and of course manager Durocher. I found this book to be a good baseball book with the information and showing me what he did in his career. I also found his life to be sad in a way though he got to play baseball he had other issues that seemed to plague him. But overall a good book about someone I did not know about before. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 4 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Anstett

    For any baseball fans, Cub fans, Ernie Banks fans, or readers in general - this biography supplies a clear and objective look at the life of one of the national pastime's all-time greats. Supplied by good research, readers gain a thorough look at the life of Mr. Cub, another "rags-to-almost riches" story. Readers in general, will gain an appreciation of yet another model of a person who overcomes odds to become one of America's real sports heroes; not every sports legend receives teh Presidentia For any baseball fans, Cub fans, Ernie Banks fans, or readers in general - this biography supplies a clear and objective look at the life of one of the national pastime's all-time greats. Supplied by good research, readers gain a thorough look at the life of Mr. Cub, another "rags-to-almost riches" story. Readers in general, will gain an appreciation of yet another model of a person who overcomes odds to become one of America's real sports heroes; not every sports legend receives teh Presidential Medal of Freedom. Baseball fans will discover details of Banks's life that clarify the person he was in conduct of the game itself. Cub fans will appreciate the scope of Rapoport's chronology and relive the highs and lows of both Banks's career and Cub history (as painful as it was during Banks's career. The context of baseball is not for everyone, but the book is well-written.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Ron Rapoport did a good job on Ernie Banks, the problem was his playing for the Cubs. One of the most disorganized franchises in all of baseball which Ron pointed out in this work. The Cubs were so caught up in losing that many a career was destroyed, over rated by the fans, and hard pressed to find a manager that could lead. Ernie was without a doubt one very gifted ballplayer whose positive thinking and behavior captured an entire city as well as baseball fans. What I did not care for in this Ron Rapoport did a good job on Ernie Banks, the problem was his playing for the Cubs. One of the most disorganized franchises in all of baseball which Ron pointed out in this work. The Cubs were so caught up in losing that many a career was destroyed, over rated by the fans, and hard pressed to find a manager that could lead. Ernie was without a doubt one very gifted ballplayer whose positive thinking and behavior captured an entire city as well as baseball fans. What I did not care for in this book was the mentioning of a false face, why be so critical towards one delightful ballplayer who loved the game. Time may not ever see another Ernie Banks with all his gifts and faults he was a lovable human at heart.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mickey Mantle

    I am truly amazed at how well researched and written the book is. This is not some FANBOY style put the jock on a pedestal work. Rapoport put a lot of effort into trying to find WHO Ernie Banks actually was as a human being. The entire Banks happy persona, Mr. Cub, all things to all people appears to be a defense mechanism to hide all kinds of inner pain. The author never really grabbed me as a Sportswriter for the Sun Times. I found him preachy and dull. This book is neither preachy nor dull. Con I am truly amazed at how well researched and written the book is. This is not some FANBOY style put the jock on a pedestal work. Rapoport put a lot of effort into trying to find WHO Ernie Banks actually was as a human being. The entire Banks happy persona, Mr. Cub, all things to all people appears to be a defense mechanism to hide all kinds of inner pain. The author never really grabbed me as a Sportswriter for the Sun Times. I found him preachy and dull. This book is neither preachy nor dull. Congrats, Ron. This is a memorable and thoughtful book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    This biography was overall decent. I appreciated how Rapoport covered Ernie Banks' best and worst characteristics. Because, like most celebrities, he was complicated. Conversely, this was less a true biography of Banks and more a biography of the Banks-era Cubs. Teammates were covered in more detail than other bios. And this book didn't need a retelling of the history of the Negro Leagues. Not that it isn't important, but it's covered everywhere and unnecessarily repetitive. 3.5 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dick Muir

    An outstanding biography of Mr. Cub. As I was born in 1949, and a lifelong Cubs fan, this book blended my first 20 plus years with Ernie’s career. I remember racing home after school to watch the final few innings of the game. The book also delved deep into his life helping to understand him so much better. And it truly placed the blame for the epic 1969 collapse squarely on the shoulders of Leo Durocher, a egotistical jerk, with striking similarities to our current president.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen D.

    Not only a history of Ernie Banks, but a fascinating story about baseball in general.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heather Santiago

  16. 4 out of 5

    Larry K

  17. 5 out of 5

    Papajohn

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jan Thullen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Frank

  20. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Galvan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kamal Brar

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brent Siegel

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eddie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Nickels

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joe Nartowicz

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Book

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Brownlee

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bill Golden

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