Another rare Ernie Banks uniform up for auction, another hefty sale price. For the third time in a year, a jersey worn more than 40 years ago by the late Chicago Cubs legend fetched a six-figure sum at SCP Auctions. The latest—a gray road jersey worn during the 1969 season—sold for $161,484 after more than two weeks on the block at the Laguna Niguel, Calif.-based auction house. It was sold by a Barrington Hills resident who got it from Banks before the Cubs great moved to California.
He will forever be “Mr. Cub,” the most popular player ever to roam the friendly confines of Chicago’s Wrigley Field. His sunny personality is legend, as is his refrain on a sunny day: “Let’s play two!” The first black player on the Cubs, Banks came up as a shortstop, where he won consecutive MVP awards (1958-59), but actually played more games at first base. Always a fan favorite with the Chicago Cubs during his playing days from 1953 to ’71, Banks even joined the Cubs coaching staff following his retirement. He still holds team records for games played (2,528), at-bats (9,421), extra-base hits (1,009) and total bases (4,706). And now one of his rarest Cubs jerseys is on the auction block at SCP Auctions. The current high bid with 11 days remaining is $44,291.00.
As most advanced flannel collectors know, Banks is considered the third rarest 500 HR Club member jersey behind Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx in completely original, unaltered condition. Remarkably, it is widely believed that more Babe Ruth jerseys exist than those of Banks. One theory as to their extreme scarcity is that several of the handful of known original Banks jerseys were tragically dismantled by various trading card companies for use on “swatch” cards in recent decades. Among the few surviving original, unaltered Banks jerseys known, the 1969 Cubs home example ranks near the top. Largely unknown to the collecting community it has rested quietly for more than 20 years as the centerpiece to the late Bill Riddell’s esteemed collection in southern California.
“With regard to quality, condition, rarity and provenance, we unabashedly rank this among the finest game worn flannels our firm has ever handled,” said Dan Imler, vice president at SCP Auctions.
Stunningly beautiful, the jersey’s impeccable technical details include a Wilson size 40 tag sewn on the front tail along with a black chain stitched “1969”. Inside the collar is a strip tag reading “14-69-1-40” in chain stitch indicating the jersey number, year of issue, set number and size. The embroidered circular Cubs logo is sewn onto the chest while Banks number “14” is sewn on the reverse in blue tackle twill. A Cubbie Bear patch appears on the left sleeve and its original MLB 100th Anniversary patch remains on the right sleeve. Banks has signed the front of the jersey in large black marker. It is worth noting that among the other known Banks jerseys is a similar 1969 home Set 2 (this is the Set 1). In spite of the Set 2 example having a replaced MLB Anniversary patch it sold at auction in 2012 for $169,000.
Online bidding is open to registered bidders and concludes Saturday, Dec. 6. The auction is being conducted online at SCP Auctions. For more information, call 949-831-3700.