Summer Premier Auction 2019

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In 1959, Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, heir to his father’s iconic chewing gum company, hired 34-year-old Eldred R. Saltwell as the team’s business manager. “Salty”, as he was known, had been serving as GM in the Cubs farm system since 1955 before being summoned to the Windy City. His astute business sense earned him the role of traveling secretary and later Vice President overseeing team operations. His loyalty to Wrigley even got him a one-year stint in 1976 as the Cubs GM. Along the way, Salty developed many lasting friendships within the organization – perhaps none more noteworthy than “Mr. Cub” himself – and was gifted this 1969 Ernie Banks road jersey (Set #4) when the Wrigley family sold the team to the Tribune Company in 1981. The now 95-year-old kept the jersey in impeccable condition before handing it down to his daughter in 2007. It is offered for the first time directly from the family.

The ’69 Cubs finished 92–70, eight games behind the eventual World Champion New York Mets in the newly established National League East. The rollercoaster season saw the Cubbies in first place for 155 days until mid-September when they dropped 17 of 25 games. Banks played a steady first base and provided plenty of offensive firepower at the age of 39, finishing with 23 home runs and 106 RBI to earn his 14th and final All-Star appearance. This particular jersey has been professionally photo-matched to multiple games from the ’69 season.

Technical details include a Wilson size 40 tag sewn on the front tail above a black chain stitched “1969.” Inside the collar is a strip tag reading "14-69-4-40" in chain stitch indicating uniform number, year of issue, set number and size. “CHICAGO” is sewn directly across the chest while Ernie’s prestigious number “14” is sewn on the left front torso and on the reverse. All letters and numbers come in blue tackle twill. An embroidered Cubbie Bear patch appears on the left sleeve and the iconic MLB 100th Anniversary patch is found on the right sleeve.

The superb garment exhibits consistent pilling and fraying with signs of being laundered after several games of usage by Banks. Most importantly, there are no signs of moth damage and or any condition issues whatsoever. It looks as if Ernie just took off this jersey in the clubhouse after his final road game in ’69. Given that players in that era were issued just two road jerseys for the season (Sets 1 and 2 were the home versions, both accounted for and sold in the hobby; Set 3 was the other road, which we sold in 2015), one can logically make visual matches to other games based on the obvious differences in the front alignment of the buttons, letters and numbers.

A Banks gamer has long been considered by advanced flannel jersey collectors to be the third scarcest among all 500 Home Run Club members – behind only Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx – to acquire in completely original, unaltered condition. It is widely believed that more Babe Ruth jerseys exist, perhaps due to the tragic number of original Banks jerseys dismantled by card companies in recent decades for use on modern swatch cards. This all-original specimen is essentially flawless in condition and preservation, not to mention coming with ideal documentation. With regard to quality, condition, rarity and provenance, this is certainly one of the finest flannels to be offered publicly – Banks, et al. And we should know, having handled three previously with an average price realized of $150,000.

Includes LOA from Salty Saltwell himself. Additional LOA’s from MEARS graded a perfect A10 and Sports Investors with details regarding the photo-match. (Due to Sports Illustrated Classic's proprietary licensing regulations, neither the actual game image nor the close-up with side-by-side graphics are permitted to be uploaded for public viewing.)

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