This past weekend, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper became the second player in MLB history to hit home runs against the Phillies in six consecutive games at Philadelphia. It’s the kind of stat that baseball purists love, claimed first way back in 1955 by Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks.
Something else that group can look forward to is a new biography of Banks, by a journalist who knew the retired player well. Kevin Roderick, who runs LAObserved, shared the news of Ron Rapoport’s deal with Hachette Books for Ernie Banks: A Life, and also linked to a great obituary Rapoport wrote for the site in January 2015. There are hints in the Rapoport item of the ground that will be covered in the book:
Once, when I pressed Banks to tell me how he really felt about never playing in a World Series, his smile was replaced by a resigned look. “Sometimes I’m at a Hall of Fame reunion,” he said, “and I’ll look around and see I’m the only one in the room who never played in a World Series. I’ve had nightmares about it. Once I even talked to a psychiatrist. There wasn’t much he could say, just that I’d done the best I could and it wasn’t meant to be.”
Then there was his complicated relationship with Leo Durocher. Ernie said the only time he became truly angry was when Durocher intimated that he was at fault for the Cubs’ famous meltdown during the 1969 pennant race. The real problem, Ernie said, was that Durocher was jealous of his popularity. “Leo thought he should be Mr. Cub.” he said.
Not until both men had retired, and Durocher, sensing his mortality, embarked on a charm campaign, was the bitterness truly healed. “Leo attended a reunion of the 1969 team many years later,” Ernie said, “and stood up and said, ‘The one thing I regret about that year is the way I treated Ernie.’ That made me feel good.”
Rapoport, a former sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Los Angeles Daily News, has written seven books covering everything from golfer Bobby Jones to the 1960s comedy team of Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen. The Ernie Banks bio is due in the spring of 2018 and follows an earlier biography by Phil Rogers in 2011 and Banks’ autobiography published in 1971.
Earlier this month, the Cubs brought out of storage an Ernie Banks statue that had been removed in 2014 in connection with Wrigley Field renovations. The statue was officially re-introduced April 8.
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