Ernie Banks never earned a World Series ring, but next weekend some of the other awards from his career will be up for grabs after a lengthy legal battle over ownership.
Banks’ 1977 Hall of Fame induction ring is among several pieces being sold to the highest bidder by Heritage Auctions. The items are being sold by the estate of “Mr Cub,” who died at 83 on January 23, 2015, in his beloved Chicago. As of late Thursday, the current high bid on the ring was $34,000, but it could reach six figures by the time bidding closes later this month.
Other items will include a Sultan of Swat crown awarded to Banks in 1958 when he led the National League in home runs and RBIs and was awarded the league’s most valuable player award for the first of two consecutive years. Also on the block will be a miniature version of the “Mr. Cub” statue that stands outside Wrigley Field, a Negro Leagues leather jacket that Banks owned, and an Illinois vanity license plate with the inscription “Mr Cub” in capital letters.
Another item is the tie Banks wore when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, and a photograph autographed by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Banks is hefting a bat while flanked by the Obamas. There also is a signed letter from current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, sent to Banks in response to a condolence letter the former baseball star sent the then-Secretary of State after the death of her mother.
Banks played his entire 19-year career with the Cubs. He hit 512 home runs and drove in 1,636 runs. He finished with a career .274 average but also hit 40 or more home runs five times. He was an 11-time all-star and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.
Getting Banks’ items to auction has been fraught with legal wrangling between Banks’ estranged wife, Elizabeth, and his longtime caretaker, Regina Rice. But in late June, a Cook County judge gave a tentative go-ahead to Rice to begin selling some of the Hall of Famer’s belongings in an auction.
Probate judge James Riley instructed that Elizabeth Banks be provided a list of the inventory and sales plan. As she has not lodged a challenge, Riley said the auction can go forward and it was finalized in July.
Both sides had been battling over control of the estate since Banks’ death from a heart attack. Elizabeth Banks, who lives in California and was Ernie Banks’ fourth wife, alleged in a court filing that her husband had been diagnosed with dementia days before he signed a will that cut his family out of his estate and left everything to Rice.
Rice claimed that Ernie Banks entrusted her to carry out his wishes. One item in Rice’s possession that will be part of the auction is what she describes as Banks’ last autograph. It was written with a Sharpie on a 28-inch by 35-inch giclee that depicted artist Pat Long’s rendering of Banks’ 1958 Topps baseball card. Banks signed the giclee a few days before his fatal heart attack. A giclee, by the way, is a French term that means to spray or squirt. In terms of art, a giclee is a fine arts digital print made on an inkjet printer.
Bidding is set to run through August 28.