If anyone had a key to the City of Chicago, it would have been the late, great Ernie Banks. The most popular player in the storied history of the Chicago Cubs, Banks earned the nickname “Mr. Cub” during the course of his 19-year, Hall of Fame career. The first black player in Cubs’ history, Banks came up as a shortstop, which is the position he played while winning back-to-back N.L. MVP awards (1958-59), but actually played more games at first base before retiring after the ’71 season. Amazingly, he still holds team records for games played (2,528), extra-base hits (1,009) and total bases (4,706). Next month, starting on August 5th, one of his rarest Cubs jerseys goes on the auction block at www.scpauctions.com as part of its 2015 Mid-Summer Classic.
Among the few surviving unaltered Banks’ jerseys known to exist, the 1968 Cubs home example (Set 1) offered here ranks near the top. Completely unknown to the collecting community, it has rested quietly for more than 40 years in the possession of a Cubs-loving family by the name of the Bermans. Chicagoans who at one time lived right across the street from Wrigley Field, the family’s second son, Jeff, acquired the jersey directly from Banks in 1974. Mr. Cub handed it to the then 21-year-old as a token of his appreciation for coaching Ernie’s fraternal twin boys, Jerry and Joey, in basketball at a local Boys’ Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, which is where the Cubs used to play their spring training games. Berman then gifted the jersey four years later to his nephew, Randy “Boomer” Berman, on the latter’s actual birthday: Dec. 14, 1978.
The impeccably preserved 1968 jersey’s technical details are breathtaking. In a season in which Banks ripped 32 home runs and knocked in 83 runs, it’s an especially coveted gamer that’s been photo-matched several times over. A Cubbie Bear patch appears on the left sleeve and a special “1818 Illinois Sesquicentennial 1968” patch from that season celebrating the state’s 150th year in existence remains on the right sleeve. Puckering around the patches indicates that they are all original and have never been removed. Thus, the jersey was never recycled with the Cubs’ minor leagues affiliates.
“Without question, this game worn flannel ranks among the finest our firm has ever handled,” said Dan Imler, vice president at SCP Auctions.
It’s important to note that SCP Auctions sold a 1969 Ernie Banks Cubs home jersey (Set 1) from the Bill Riddell Estate Collection in its 2014 Fall Premier online auction for $151,652. Online bidding is open to registered bidders and concludes Saturday, August 22. The auction is being conducted online at www.scpauctions.com. For more information, call 949-831-3700. -Terry Melia