Fergie Jenkins has already prepared her 10-minute speech long before her monumental recognition.
Jenkins joked that he would try not to bore anyone, but hopes to tell people about his baseball journey and thank those who helped him along the way. When Jenkins’ statue is unveiled on Friday morning, it will join former teammates Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams in the newly established memorial row at Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field.
Jenkins, 79, arrived in Chicago on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s ceremony. He estimates that around 150 family members and friends will attend the unveiling.
“It’s an honor in itself because many generations have never seen me play, especially the younger ones,” Jenkins told the Tribune. “It’s going to affect a lot of different people to stand by my statue and read some of the stats I hold as an athlete: winning games, completing ballgames, winning Cy Young, that sort of thing. thing.
“It is an honor that people stand in front of my statue and take their picture.”
Before the final honors a team can give to a player, the Tribune spoke to five of Jenkins’s former Cubs teammates about their memories of playing with the right hand and what made him an elite pitcher.
When the Cubs acquired Jenkins from the Philadelphia Phillies for three weeks in the 1966 season, the 23-year-old Canadian had only eight games of big-league experience. Cubs manager Leo Durocher kicked Jenkins out of the bullpen for the rest of the season before putting him in the rotation at the end of August, and he posted a 2.13 ERA with two complete games in his last nine starts. Jenkins made 594 starts in his 19-year MLB career, including 347 in 10 seasons with the Cubs.
Billy Williams (Jenkins’s teammate from 1966–73): “He was a tall, skinny guy when he walked into the clubhouse, and he didn’t know anyone – like we all do when you walk around – and suddenly Leo put him in the bullpen. Talk with him, He always had good fastball control, a real good slider and a good change. He threw a different variation than any pitcher I’ve seen. His right leg went back off the mound in a different way. But you can’t teach that. “
Jenkins was an activist throughout his career. As a Cubs he threw 154 complete games, including 29 shutouts. After making a full-time debut in 1967, Jenkins averaged 301 innings in seven seasons during his first stint at Chicago.
LHP Ken Holtzman (1966–71): “It is impossible to describe Fergie by today’s standards and protocol. He was among an elite group of pitchers who had to finish what they started and bring victory for their team. The starting pitcher’s workload is as of today. There was much more to the pitcher than that and that is probably why most pitchers from that era had their best years in their 20s, unlike many of the elite pitchers of today who have their best years in their 30s.”
Williams: “A strong guy. Sometimes we go out a little bit, come in a little late and he’s on the mound the next day. I remember we were in Pittsburgh and we had a good time that night – he and I went out And then we had to go fishing at Latrobe at 4 a.m. (40 miles away). So we got back to the hotel, we stayed there for the fishing, then we got back to the hotel and the bus left at 5:15. And I’d say I’m like, ‘Ferg, who’s pitching tonight?’ He said, ‘I am.’ That’s when I came to know that he is a strong person.”
During Jenkins’ career, 32 catchers caught him at least once. But none more so than former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley, who was behind the plate for Jenkins’ 240 appearances. Jenkins had a 3.21 ERA, 3.37 strike-to-walk ratio, .279 on-base percentage, and .646 OPS when paired with Huntley.
C. Randy Hundley (1966–73): “He was just a joy to catch. He made a nice, natural delivery on the ball and put the ball down and worked hard between starts, running a lot while keeping his hand in shape. He has command of all his pitches. The slider was probably his best pitch. During that time, Leo didn’t want to go to the bullpen and bring in someone else to take his place. He just wanted to pitch him through the whole game and watch Was that if we couldn’t get the win. He was also a good hitter. He scored 13 home runs and that helped him stay in the lineup. Most pitchers weren’t that good and would have pinched if we were behind.”
After the 1973 season, the Cubs sold Jenkins to the Texas Rangers. He spent the next eight seasons in the American League with the Rangers and the Boston Red Sox and pitched at a league-average level. However, there was another chapter in his Cubs tenure. Jenkins signed with the Cubs before the 1982 season, pitching three months before his 41st birthday, two years before his career ended. The following season, the Cubs won the division and made their first postseason appearance in 39 years.
3b/2b Ryan Sandberg (1982–83): “In those two years, I didn’t really realize he was at the end of his career. He didn’t get established because he was so dominant. Going to second base, I would look at the hitter and see the signs and see him pitch that pitch. For me, I could have mentally made a big jump or positioned myself because he was going to hit that spot and there would be a stir. He would take out the sting of the ball. The defense needed to be played behind as he somehow missed the sweet spot of the bat with his slider and his moving fastball. So playing defense behind him was just a luxury, and we were able to be in the right place at the right time. Infield Will work hand in hand with him as he was very locked inside.”
Jody Davis was Jenkins’ primary catcher in those two seasons and was third in a game played by Jenkins. Davis was for the back of the plate Jenkins’ 3,000th career strikeout On May 25, 1982 in San Diego, when he dismissed Gary Templeton. The milestone baseball went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Jenkins placed the strikeout ball number 3,001, and he handed Davis the number 3,002.
C. Jody Davis (1982–83): “It’s here in my trophy case, and I’m very proud of it. An incredible competitor, man. He was the ‘pops’ to me in the yard. Catching him was almost like a day off because Fergie had all his pitches.” But there was such good control that you go there and you call a pitch and you set up, catch the ball and throw it back. It was so much fun. Seeing his numbers is just astronomical. I mean, It’s breathtaking. He was such a great competitor, he never threw two pitches at the same pace and at the same spot. I mean, he made it easy to move the ball around.”
Sandberg: “I remember one game in April, he was in his windup when he turned to me at third base and said, ‘Heads up, Reno.’ And then he threw the pitch, and I shook and saw a shot hit my right foul. In the middle of the innings I went to him, ‘Fake, what do you mean head up?’ And he goes, ‘Well, I was just alerting you that I was throwing a big power right-handed hitter into an inside change and I wanted him to pull it the wrong way for a strike. If he If this happens right, it’s going to be a rocket at you, so I’m trying to help.’ So they did that for the rest of the season, the big guys were thrown inside the change, and they couldn’t keep it fair.”
Jenkins’ statue cements his position as the greatest Cubs pitcher ever. He can still be found in the Cubs record books, including most game starts and most career strikes. Jenkins, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, became the first Cubs to win the National League Cy Young Award in 1971 and finished in the top three another four times. His former teammates remember Jenkins’s career beyond well-deserved praise.
Williams: “When that statue is unveiled and when the children run to look and see it, they should say: It was a durable pitcher. He wanted to be on the mound. His talk was going out. People don’t get who he has the full game. But he wanted to. He wanted people to say, ‘There was a man who opened his heart to the Cubs.'”
Davis: “The ultimate competitor. His numbers are off the charts. Looking at his numbers compared to today, the pitchers will laugh at him. But he’s really a great man, a great friend, a great companion. I’m glad I got a little bit of it.” Got a chance to be a part.
Sandberg: “If I were walking to home plate in front of them, it would be just their height, their slackness of hand and their feet coming on you and hands. They are coming at you and then the ball is going in different directions. That’s cheating. And he naturally had. But to look at their 20-win season, I don’t see that happening in today’s game. It’s quite unbelievable.”
Holtzman: “Fergie was highly respected by his opponents as well as his own peers because of his reliability, consistency and excellence, which are his qualities that I most tried to emulate. As a symbol of his determination and strength His statue as it should be made of granite, and I hope those who see it will be reminded of his greatness.”