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.




Chapter 1

1717 Fairmount

The Dallas Arts District is a proud statement of progress and achievement in a great American city. It covers twenty square blocks in the city’s downtown, and its architecturally significant buildings are home to the Dallas Museum of Art, the symphony orchestra, opera, theater center, ballet, black dance theatre, chamber symphony, youth orchestra, and other organizations devoted to the fine arts. It also contains museums of nature and science, sculpture, and Asian art.

The district claims to be the largest contiguous urban arts center in the United States—perhaps only New York has as much culture crammed into an area of similar size—and it boasts elegant restaurants and shops, green space, churches, and a high school for the performing and visual arts. The surrounding residential and commercial real estate has risen in stature over the years, and in price, and the district is high on every list of places visitors to Dallas should not miss.

Longtime residents of Dallas and civic historians marvel at the area’s transformation into one of the city’s finest areas from one of its most abject. Though the construction of the Central Expressway in the 1950s destroyed the original neighborhood and makes precise calculations difficult, John Slate, the city’s archivist, believes the arts district sits on ground that after the Civil War was part of an area known as Freedman’s Town. Slate can be sure, however, that the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, a building designed by the world-famous architect Rem Koolhaas, now occupies the site of a wooden house of uncertain vintage where, on January 31, 1931, Ernie Banks was born.

Life was precarious for recently freed slaves in and around Dallas after the Civil War. Some gathered in Freedman’s Town near a slave cemetery outside the city limits, where they sought mutual protection from their former owners, who had not taken kindly to the war’s outcome. Though residents of Freedman’s Town who crossed into Dallas risked being arrested for vagrancy, the area served as a source of labor, particularly women working as domestics in white homes, for more than a hundred years. Nor would many other things change for the city’s black residents during the coming century.

Dallas’s schools remained segregated, of course, and black children often used textbooks discarded by their white counterparts and were taught by teachers paid far less than their white colleagues. Streetcars and buses, restaurants and water fountains, movie theaters and cemeteries were also kept separate. There were no black policemen, judges, or city officials, and black voters were barred from the Democratic primaries, the only elections that mattered. During the 1920s, the Dallas chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, whose membership included judges and city officials, boasted that it was the largest in the country. Many areas downtown were forbidden to blacks, and the state fairgrounds were off-limits except on Juneteenth, the black holiday celebrating the end of slavery, and the second Monday in October, which some called “nigger day at the fair.” The practice continued until 1960.

Still, there were opportunities. The coming of the railroads in the 1870s provided good jobs for black workers laying tracks and as conductors while others prospered as farmers. Though blacks were for the most part not allowed to own property, white entrepreneurs bought cheap land on both sides of the Houston & Texas Central Railway tracks and built rickety houses to rent to them. Some of these areas remained unchanged for many years.

A survey conducted by the Dallas Housing Authority of the city’s black districts in 1938, for instance, cited the lack of sanitation, absence of sunlight, leaky roofs, broken and boarded-up doors, and sagging floors and walls in most of the houses, and called them “unfit for human habitation.” “Fire hazards in these areas endanger the entire city,” the report concluded. “The insanitary conditions threaten the lives of the people as a whole, especially in the event of an epidemic. The depressing effect of the slums on the morale of the inhabitants of the areas endangers the social stability of the entire community.”

To Eddie and Essie Banks and their growing family, it was home.

“There were three rooms from the front clean through to the back—a front room, a middle room, and a kitchen,” says Edna Warren, the first of the Bankses’ twelve children, of the family home at 1717 Fairmount, which they rented for twenty dollars a month. “There were double beds in each room and there were always two or three kids in each bed.”

There was no indoor plumbing, just a faucet behind the house where the outhouse was also located. To wash dishes, Edna took a dishpan outside, filled it with water, brought it back in, and heated it on the stove. To rinse them, she repeated the process. Baths were taken in a big iron tub, which was also filled with water and heated on the stove. The laborious process restricted baths to one or two a month.

Essie Banks supervised laundry day in the backyard, using what she called a boiling pot, lye soap she made out of fat, and a “rub board.” She pushed the clothes through the water with a stick, then transferred them to another pot, where Edna rinsed and hung them on a clothesline. Ironing was done with a smoothing iron, a flat piece of metal that was placed on the stove until red hot. What light there was inside the house came from kerosene lamps with glass chimneys containing small wicks. “I was the chimney girl,” says Edna, whose job was to keep them clean.

As a treat for his ever-growing number of children, Eddie would sometimes string three or four extension cords together and give a quarter to the woman in the house next door, which had electricity, and they would listen to the adventures of Superman, Batman, and The Shadow on an old radio the woman had given them. When Eddie ran out of quarters, the radio fell silent. Not until Essie, during a brief respite from having children, took a cleaning job at the Dallas Medical Center could the family finally afford their own power. “It was an event to be remembered when we switched from lamps to electricity,” Ernie Banks would recall.

The house was heated by two wood-burning stoves fueled by large logs provided by the WPA, the New Deal agency whose trucks also delivered flour, meal, cheese, corn, and other staples, and occasionally used articles of clothing. The logs would be sawed into chunks, and by the time Edna was ten years old her father had taught her how to split them with his double-bladed axe into four pieces small enough to fit in the stove. Why, she wondered, was it her job and not that of her brother, who, though he was two years younger, was taller and stronger than she was? “Daddy, I’m a girl,” she complained. Eddie Banks pointed out that Ernie had other chores, including carrying the chopped wood inside, and that everybody had to contribute.

Feeding the family was a challenge. Essie grew greens in her backyard garden and made biscuits and small round tea cakes that Ernie particularly enjoyed, using lard instead of butter, and powdered eggs, and filling them with syrup and jelly. By far the biggest staple of the Banks family diet was red beans, which came in fifty-pound sacks. “My mother was a genius with money,” Ernie would remember. “She could make a little bit of money talk. She would take a big can of lard, a big can of beans, a big can of flour, and fix the same meal for months.” Still, a boy could get tired of beans, and once he had money of his own he never ate them again.

One source of bounty was a nearby Safeway where the men stocking its shelves would let out a whistle signaling that deliveries were being made. Neighborhood families would wheel wagons around to the back and go through crates of rotten and bruised fruits and vegetables. “If they would get a truck in with grapes, maybe a few of them on the top would be rotten, but they’d get rid of the whole crate,” says Edna, who, along with Ernie and their younger brother Ben, was part of the pickup crew. “Mama got rid of the bad part and we ate the good part. Then she would take the rotten grapes and make jelly out of them.” Wednesday was chicken-delivery day and Essie would ask for the feet, and perhaps some neck bones and pig’s feet that were about to be thrown out.

This foraging once had unintended consequences for Edna. When she and Ernie were attending Booker T. Washington High School, which was diagonally across the street from their home, one of her teachers paid a surprise visit. “I saw you at the garbage can the other day,” the woman said. “I’m going to give you and your brother tokens for your lunch so you won’t have to be out there doing that.” Mortified, Edna tried to explain the food wasn’t exactly garbage, but the teacher was unmoved. She would be getting a free lunch now. She should stay away from garbage cans. The story quickly spread through the school, and she began hearing catcalls from her classmates—“I heard about y’all digging through garbage cans”—and her humiliation increased. Nor did she understand how Ernie, who was as much an object of the taunts as she was, could simply ignore them. Why didn’t he ever get angry? she wondered. Why didn’t the way they lived bother him as much it did her? Why did she sometimes have the feeling that black people didn’t have anything to live for, while her brother just shrugged it off?

Ernie would always remember these days with fondness. The rusted wheels he found that he attached to a scooter he fashioned out of boards and raced through the neighborhood with his friends. The BB gun he used to shoot rats, which were never in short supply. The prom jacket his mother bought for fifty cents at Goodwill and his date, a girl named Judy, leaving the dance with somebody else. Miss Della, who lived across the street and sat in a rocking chair on her porch all day, watching him when he went to school and again as he came home. As an adult, he would enjoy rocking chairs himself, and he would think of Miss Della whenever he sat in them.

There was also the Thanksgiving Day chicken his mother left in the backyard while she fetched a pail of boiling water after wringing its neck. When he was sent to retrieve it, there was nothing but a trail of blood. Ernie told this story in different ways over the years; its most colorful version has him following the blood to the thief’s lair and, after a wrestling match, returning triumphantly with the chicken intact and his clothes torn and bloody.

“I never said, ‘Why do they have that and I don’t?’” he said many years later. “We didn’t look at other folks. We just lived for the moment and had fun.”

“We didn’t know we were poor,” says Ernie’s childhood friend Jack Price. “We didn’t know we were living in shotgun houses. We thought outdoor facilities were the norm. We just accepted it.”

Banks never entirely overcame this part of his childhood. “I don’t look forward to too much,” he told an interviewer in 1963. “Even now, I haven’t geared myself to extreme heights because of the way I was brought up. I was taught that whatever I had, to be happy with it—even if it was a small thing.”

Edna felt different. “I was tired of hard times,” she says. “I was tired of being neglected, of people looking at us as poor WPA kids.” She and her brothers and sisters had been taught to do without, to accept being poor, not to nag their parents for things they couldn’t have. She had heard her father’s stories about when times were really hard—about soup kitchens and bread lines when the Depression was at its worst. And besides, they were a family, with a mother and a father who loved them, did their best for them, and, poor or not, were respected in the community. “His father, all of them, were very nice people,” says Dr. Robert Prince, one of Ernie’s classmates. “Ernie may have been poor, but he was one of the nicest, most respectable young men around.”

Eddie Banks and Essie Durden made their way to Dallas from smaller towns in the South—he from Marshall, Texas, she from Greenwood, Louisiana. Eddie’s father was a minister, but it would be Essie who took the family to church on Sundays. He’d done enough churchgoing as a boy, Eddie said. According to family lore, Eddie’s grandmother was a slave who worked in her owners’ kitchen and had been promised some small property upon their deaths. “But because she couldn’t read or write, they took it all away from her,” Edna says.

Eddie had three brothers who came around from time to time, but little was said about his life in Marshall or any other family there. Essie’s relatives in Greenwood were another story. Her family tree was a thick entanglement of branches carefully tended by relatives who sought out and documented Durdens wherever they had scattered. There were picnics and other get-togethers over the years, but it wasn’t until 2002, when Essie was ninety years old, that she finally returned to Greenwood. “Mama wanted us to go to Louisiana to learn her folks,” says Walter Banks, the eighth of Eddie and Essie’s children, who was born sixteen years after Ernie.

They were all surprised at the turnout—hundreds and hundreds of Durdens and their descendants, it seemed—when suddenly Walter got the shock of his life as he found himself staring at O. J. Simpson and Johnnie Cochran. “I didn’t know that O. J. and I were cousins,” Walter says about learning that Essie Banks and Simpson’s mother were first cousins. “All I knew was O. J. running the football and running through the airport.” His astonishment increased when he picked up a booklet made for the reunion that included an in-memoriam page with a number of photos. One of them was of a smiling blond woman with a caption that read: “In loving memory, Nicole Brown Simpson, wife of O. J. Simpson. Daughter-in-law of Eunice Durden Simpson.”

Essie left Greenwood when her eighteen-year-old brother, who was living in Dallas, was shot. Her mother, who traveled there to care for her son, wanted to leave Essie at home, but her father insisted that a young girl needed her mother. The marriage ended shortly thereafter, and mother and daughter took up residence in the servants’ quarters of a white family’s home. At the age of seventeen, Essie met Eddie, who was thirty-five, at a baseball game, and they began keeping company. Finding herself pregnant, she promptly married him and just as promptly began having more children. “The only reason she married Daddy was to get away,” Edna says. “She said she never had a young lady’s life because she was too busy having babies. She told me, ‘I’m not going to have a life of my own.’”

Essie was seventeen when Edna was born and forty-four when she gave birth to her twelfth child, Donald. Edna had the distinction of being born in a hospital—and a white one at that. Essie had little money, and the family her mother worked for generously arranged to have her admitted to Baylor Hospital. This would cause problems later when Edna submitted her birth certificate while applying for a job and was suspected of forgery since everybody knew Baylor Hospital didn’t admit black patients, pregnant or not.

Essie’s other children were born at home with the assistance of a midwife who had her own ideas about childbirth. “She told me about delivering her babies on an ironing board,” says Dolores Law, the daughter of Ernie’s younger sister, Estella. “She would sit on it and the midwife would help her.” In later years, Essie couldn’t remember which of her children were delivered in this fashion, but it is quite possible that Ernie Banks came into the world on an ironing board.

Essie had ambitions of being a nurse but couldn’t spare the time away from her family it would have required, so she worked when she could as a domestic in white families’ homes. “She was having babies so fast she never did get to work on a solid job,” Edna says. Still, she could earn as much as twenty-five dollars every few weeks, which was often more than her husband earned washing cars, shining shoes, and, for more than twenty years, loading and unloading trucks, and cleaning out offices and storerooms at Wyatt’s Grocery, which would later become part of the Kroger chain.

“I remember him leaving at five in the morning and coming back at seven at night,” Ernie said. “Sunup to sundown, dark to dark. He’d come home, give the money to my mother, play some dominoes or checkers with his brothers, then go right back to work the next day. I used to visualize having a job where I worked only in the daytime.”

Eddie never joined the crowd at the local honky-tonks that were part of North Dallas’s nightlife. Dipping snuff and pulling from a two-dollar half pint were the extent of his vices, and he was content to practice them at home. Occasionally, Essie would show frustration at her husband’s lack of ambition. Why didn’t he think about buying a house or a car? she would ask him. Eddie would respond with a shrug and a smile. He was satisfied with what he had, uncomplaining about what was missing. This acceptance of his fate was, Ernie thought as he listened to their arguments, something to think about.

Besides, it wasn’t as if Eddie just sat around the house. He was always fixing something—the porch, the roof, the outhouse door, the latch that kept it shut. He built cabinets inside the house, a mailbox outside, and a fence to keep his growing number of children from wandering away. He was a decent mechanic, too, and once nursed an old Nash somebody had brought him into running condition. He probably shouldn’t have left the jar of kerosene he used to clean sparkplugs within reach of his six-year-old son, though. “Daddy turned his back and before you knew it Ernie had picked that jar up and drunk it,” Edna says. “They had to rush him to the hospital.”

Eddie kept busy in others ways, too. He had a wagon—“Call it a junk wagon,” says Jack Price—which he would push through the neighborhood and pick up items people had thrown out that he could repair and sell or use himself. Ernie, who was in elementary school at the time, would help his father on his rounds, though the messiness of the job, combined with Essie’s busy schedule at home, could have unfortunate results.

“Ernest, where are you going?” Price’s mother called out one day when she saw him walking home during school hours.

“I’m going home to wash my clothes, Mrs. Price,” he said. “My teacher said I was dirty. But I’m going back to school tomorrow.” If he was embarrassed, he showed no signs of it. Eddie enlisted Ernie in another task, too, one that required his absence from school for more than a day.

Long after the Civil War ended, cotton remained king in the South. “We’d drive from Memphis to Dallas several times a year,” Robert Prince says, “and all you saw on the side of the road all through Arkansas was cotton.” “Hot blazes, son,” Prince’s father once told him at a certain point in the drive. “You see that tree out there? I used to hurry up and pick to where I could sit under it and rest a while.”

The land surrounding Dallas, notes historian Darwin Payne, contained some of the most fertile cotton fields in the world, which had been planted and harvested without slave labor. Soon, the city became a huge inland cotton market that required many hands to do the picking. Prince’s father, who had become a math teacher at Washington High, resisted his son’s pleas to give it a try—“You’re not cut out for it, you’re a city boy”—but Eddie Banks and his son joined the labor force.

“They’d bring a truck through the neighborhood at four in the morning to pick the people up,” Ernie says. “They gave us a sack and I’d just get down and go at it. The older men could pick with both hands and toss the cotton in the sack in one huge motion. I crawled on my knees. Five or six dollars was pretty good for a day’s work. I never made that much.”

Years later, Ernie would apply a nostalgic glow to his days in the cotton fields. There was the breakfast of milk and coffee cake or sweet rolls—a rare meal away from home—and the pleasure of doing something with his father that did not include his sometimes overbearing older sister. During his playing career, Banks once heard Dizzy Dean, the former major league pitching star whose radio broadcasts often wandered from the action on the diamond, say he had picked five hundred pounds of cotton a day. “He could really pick it then,” Banks told reporters. “The best I could do was three hundred pounds.” One thing Banks did not mention in these reminiscences was the full year of school he missed while helping his father in the cotton fields. This worried some of his friends, and they were relieved when he returned to the classroom.

Eddie Banks had another skill that gave him pleasure all his life. He could take an old baseball glove that was all but falling apart and breathe new life into it. “We had three-fingered gloves back then,” says Walter Banks. “He’d say, ‘Let me fix that webbing,’ and he’d sit up all night sewing it up, fixing the thumb, fixing the pocket, until the ball would stick right in there.”

Baseball was Eddie’s passion, the one thing that could break through his usually placid nature. He had once been the catcher for the Dallas Green Monarchs, a semipro Negro League team sponsored by a neighborhood market, that played at local ballparks on weekends. Back home in Marshall, there were those who thought Eddie could have played for the Kansas City Monarchs or one of the other storied Negro League teams, but if he had any regrets he never shared them with his sons. His finest moment, certainly the one he talked about the most, came when he caught Satchel Paige in a game whose details are obscure—the legendary pitcher may have been making one of his many solo barnstorming appearances—in which Paige made it clear that Eddie’s job was not to call pitches but to catch them.

“Satchel would do his fingers some kind of way,” Edna says of the stories her father told her. “He would let him know what kind of pitch was coming and where.”

One day as Eddie headed to the ballpark, Essie said, “Why don’t you take Ernie with you?”

“I was eight or nine,” Ernie said of his first appearance on a baseball diamond. “They made me the bat boy.”

“He was the most batless bat boy you ever saw,” Eddie said. “He’d be playing catch with the players when he should have been doing his chores.”

Until then, Ernie had not been particularly moved by his father’s love for the game. Years later, he would often tell how Eddie had paid him a nickel to play catch with him. But he did not say how hard he tried to avoid it. Edna remembers that after Essie bought him a glove and Eddie carefully oiled it, Ernie promptly hid it. But Edna quickly retrieved it and issued an ultimatum.

“You listen to me because I’m the oldest and I’m cutting all this wood,” she said. “You’re going to go out there and you’re going to practice and you’re going to get that nickel and you’re going to give me two cents and we’re going to go to the store and get peanut packs.”

“What are you, my business partner?” responded Ernie, helpless against his sister’s onslaught.

“We would go to the store and he’d get the five pennies,” Edna says, “and I made sure he counted me out my two.”

But once Ernie got a glimpse of baseball as it was played by the Green Monarchs, his attitude toward the game, and his father, began to change.

“Throw that ball harder!” Eddie would yell at him when he and his friends were playing. “Throw it! That’s not the way to hold a bat! Hold it square it on your shoulders! Open your legs wider! Naw, naw, naw, squat, squat! You can’t catch that ball standing up! You got to put your glove down on the dirt to catch it!”

Observing from the sidelines, Ernie’s friends would smile and say, “Ooo-wee, Mr. Banks is working him out today.”

Ernie’s father had one more lesson for his son, one that would make him uneasy and haunt him the rest of his life.

“I don’t want my son working for no white people,” Eddie told Essie. “Whatever he does in his life, I want him to do it on his own.”

“He wasn’t prejudiced,” Ernie said. “It was just all the things he had seen in his younger days. They lived through the age of the Ku Klux Klan and lynchings. He never said exactly what it was, but he’d seen enough. He just thought white people weren’t trustworthy, that they were sly and slick and weren’t fair.” Many years later, Eddie’s feelings proved to be too deeply held to be mollified by the fact that his son had triumphed in the white world through the game he had taught him.

May 11, 1955, should have been one of the great days of Eddie’s life. He had just taken his first plane ride, and now he was at Wrigley Field, having his picture taken in the Cubs’ dugout with his son and shaking hands with a swarm of strangers who wanted to meet Ernie Banks’s father. The game had barely begun when Banks hit a grand-slam home run off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Russ Meyer. The crowd roared with delight and Banks smiled with the knowledge that he had given his father a thrill. But as he rounded the bases, he noticed something strange—Eddie wasn’t in his seat. “I had to keep looking for him,” Banks says. “He was up and walking. There weren’t many blacks at Wrigley Field and white folks chasing him for an autograph was a new experience for him. He just could not sit down.”

When the game ended, Banks dressed quickly, left the locker room, found his father, hustled him out of the ballpark, and drove him in silence to a nightclub on the South Side where black players often met after games.

“My God, Ernie,” Eddie said when at last he could relax. “That was so hard.”


  • "Rapoport has outdone himself, artfully redefining the Banks most of us think we knew."—Rick Kogan, The Chicago Tribune
  • "Well told...an extensively researched portrayal of the public figure as well as the lesser-known, private Banks."—The Washington Post
  • "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."—Scott Turow
  • "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."—Ken Burns
  • "Mr. Rapoport works diligently to penetrate the curtain of enthusiasm in which Banks wrapped himself.... [Let's Play Two] thoughtfully examines the role of race as it crossed Banks's life and career."—Wall Street Journal
  • "One of the better sports biographies of the century."—National Review
  • "Hooray! Ernie Banks now has the Hall-of-Fame biography he deserves thanks to Ron Rapoport. This well-researched, beautifully written book is everything a baseball fan could want. Cubs fans, of course, will want to buy two."—Jonathan Eig, the author of Luckiest Man: The Lifeand Death of Lou Gehrig and Ali: A Life
  • "Rapoport, a 20-year veteran sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, delivers what is sure to be the definitive biography of Chicago Cubs baseball player Ernie Banks...This marvelous look at the life of a beloved athlete should be essential reading for baseball fan."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • "Ernie Banks crossed the bridge from a segregated nation and national pastime to a better place, smiling all the way. Although his smile was real, so were the scarring experiences he smiled through. He was more complicated and interesting than the human sunbeam he chose to resemble. With a reporter's diligence and a historian's sensibility, Ron Rapoport tells Banks's story, and that of the different nations at the two ends of the bridge."—George F. Will
  • "[An] excellent new biography of Banks."—The Hardball Times
  • "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.'"—Bill Madden, author of Steinbrenner: The Last Lionof Baseball
  • "Famed sportwriter Ron Rapoport's new biography, Let's Play Two, provides a lot of laugh, a few tears, and helps us better understand the great Ernie Banks."—WBEZ Chicago
  • "Let's Play Two peels back the complexities of baseball legend Ernie Banks....marvelously brings readers into dugouts and locker rooms....Rapoport meticulously leaves no ball unturned in telling the two stories of Banks' life - as the Legend , and as a very private individual....Let's Play Two is a must read for baseball fans of all ages."—Utica Observer-Dispatch
  • "Let's Play Two is a great baseball book, ranking with other outstanding contemporary baseball biographies."—Illinois Times
  • "Ron Rapoport has done a magnificent job lifting the veil and illuminating the shadows in Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks....Rapoport goes at his subject with a reporter's eye, filling Let's Play Two with details that should be a revelation to many, though some will merely jog the memories of older die-hard Cubs fans."—Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune
  • "The dichotomy between Banks's public persona of 'Mr. Cub' and the reality of a man whose career was defined by losing and his later years by loneliness is what's at stake in an engrossing new biography of Banks from the former Chicago sportswriter Ron Rapoport."—Jon Greenberg, The Athletic
  • "Rapoport's years of rapport with Banks manifests itself in the completion of a previously unfinished project, now much richer than the original intent because of updated perspective. In his acknowledgements, Rapoport, a former L.A. Times and L.A. Daily News columnist, writes that those who helped him finish this knew Banks as a 'joyful, melancholy, humble, complicated, companionable, lonely man...[who] remained imprisoned in an image of one simplistic dimension.'"—Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Times
  • "This bio of Ernie Banks is a must read. Let's Play Two, by Ron Rapoport is a beautifully written book that captures the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, of Ernie's life. Cubs fans of a certain age will love this book. I give it my highest recommendation, it's that good."—Bruce Miles, Arlington (IL) Daily
  • "An excellent and detailed history of one of baseball's greatest stars and one of the game's most beloved and misunderstood personalities. Let's Pay Two is a great read for baseball fans in general and Cubs fans in particular. The definitive biography of 'Mr. Cub.'"—Andrew Elias, Ft. Myers Magazine
  • "A refreshing sports biography that punctures common myths about one of baseball's greats."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "[Banks's] era couldn't have been illustrated any better...Rapoport paints a sobering portrait of a man who was ebullient on the outside -- 'let's play two' -- but suffering on the inside."—Forbes

On Sale
Mar 3, 2020
Page Count
464 pages
Hachette Books

Ron Rapoport

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.

Learn more about this author