In the spring of 1964, Chicago resident Anahis Hartz became fast friends with Chicago Cubs’ superstar Ernie Banks while working at a hematology oncology lab and performing blood monitoring on him. When Cubs’ coach Verlon Rube Walker was later struck with Leukemia, Dr. and Mrs. Hartz became more involved with the Cubs’ organization, ultimately becoming co-founders of a leukemia research foundation named the “Rube Walker Leukemia Research Center.” Banks worked with Mrs. Hartz for the benefit of the foundation and oftentimes he and his family were guests at the Hartz’s house and even visited their lake-front home in Wisconsin. Before moving to California, Banks gave Mrs. Hartz one of his Cubs uniforms. Banks stated that he wore the uniform during the 1969 pennant race. Up until September of 2015, the jersey remained in the same garment bag in which Banks delivered it.
In 1969, the first season after the National League was split into two divisions (East and West), the Cubs finished with a regular-season record of 92–70, eight games behind the eventual World Series Champion New York Mets in the newly established National League East. The ill-fated season saw the Cubs in first place for 155 days until mid-September when they dropped 17 out of 25 games. Through it all, Banks – a.k.a. “Mr. Cub” – played steady defense at first base and consistent hitting at the plate. Even at the age of 39, he was still providing plenty of offensive fireworks for Chicago as he collected 143 hits including 23 home runs and knocked in 106 runs.
Presented here is Banks’ Chicago Cubs road jersey from that roller-coaster of a season. As most advanced baseball collectors know, Banks is considered the third rarest 500 HR Club member jersey to obtain behind Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx in completely original, unaltered condition. One theory as to their extreme scarcity is that several of the handful of known original Banks jerseys were tragically dismantled by various card companies for use on “swatch” cards in recent decades. Among the few surviving original, unaltered Banks jerseys known, the offered 1969 Cubs road example certainly ranks near the top. It has been evaluated and graded “A10” by MEARS, one of the industry’s leading third-party authentication firms. 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 auction for $151,652, while a 1969 home Set 2 example (sporting a replaced MLB Anniversary patch) sold at auction in 2012 for $169,000.
Bidding is open to registered bidders only and concludes on Saturday, Dec. 5. For more information on how to participate, visit www.scpauctions.com or call (949) 831-3700. – Terry Melia