Born and raised in Chatham, Ontario, the 1971 NL Cy Young Award winner, Ferguson Jenkins, was blessed to make it into Major League Baseball and he never took one day for granted during his professional career. Growing up in a town that no one knew too much about, Jenkins’ hard work and determination is what helped him become the recognizable person he is today in the baseball world as he knew throughout his entire career that he was born under a lucky star.
Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies when he was just 19-years old in 1962, Jenkins would not make his MLB debut until he was 22 in 1965 as a relief pitcher. The following year Jenkins was traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with Adolfo Phillips and John Herrnstein, in exchange for pitchers Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. It wouldn’t take long for Jenkins to find his groove at the professional level with the Cubs as he finished with 20 wins in ’67 and continued to put up 20+ wins for six consecutive seasons as he managed to do so until 1972; making him one of the biggest threats on the mound.
“If you’re lucky enough to make it to the big league, no matter what sport it may be, consider yourself fortunate and find a way to stay consistent,” noted Jenkins.
While throwing pitches that were being clocked in over 90 mph, Jenkins was able to bring the power with his bat as well whenever he got the opportunity to hit. On top of his impressive pitching stats that won him the 1971 NL Cy Young Award; where he posted a 24-13 record, played in 30 complete games and struck out 263 batters, Jenkins also hit 6 homeruns, a triple, batted in 20 runs and hit .243 that year. By the end of his career, Jenkins had hit 13 homeruns and 85 runs batted in and was looked at as both a threat from on the mound and at the plate. The Cubs wouldn’t get this type of offense from a pitcher until Carlos Zambrano came on board.
From 1974-1981, Jenkins split time with the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox in the American League. In his first season with the Rangers, Jenkins won a career-high and Rangers franchise-record of 25 games; going 25-12 on the season, pitching in 29 complete games while striking out 225 batters. That season Jenkins won the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award as many people speculated that he was past his prime now being over the age of 30 which ended up being one of the reasons why the Cubs ended up traded him. Although his 25-win season would be the last season of 20+ wins during his career, he managed to finish with seven seasons where he reached the 20+ wins plateau.
Being lucky enough to play the game until he reached the age of 40, Fergie Jenkins is doing whatever he can now outside of the game to help out different charities everywhere. With the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, Fergie has been able to bring many professional and former professional athletes together to help raise money for charities such as the Canadian Red Cross; the Special Olympics; the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; CRIED-Abused Women’s Program; as well as charities that focus on children with diabetes, cancer research and camps for several underprivileged children.
When Ferguson Jenkins was first asked about putting his name on a golf outing, he knew that he would be able to get help from other athletes other than himself. Over the years, the Fergie Jenkins Foundation has been able to bring out athletes such as Donovan Bailey, Bob Gibson, Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson. He has used his name to his advantage when it comes to spreading the word about something or getting help for a specific cause. He hosts golf outings and cheese and wine tasting events to help raise money for various charities that the Foundation is involved with. Once he got involved with his first one, he knew it was something that would be a part of his everyday life.
“After I did the first one I realized I’ve got time to continue with them,” stated Jenkins. “I’m on the road about 100 days a year doing other appearances so this all fits right in,” he added.
Jenkins, along with Greg Maddux, both had their #31 retired by the Chicago Cubs in 2009 to honour both of the legendary pitchers. He sits on a list with Maddux, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez as the only Major League pitchers to ever record more than 3,000 strikeouts with fewer than 1,000 walks. He is considered the anchor of the 14 Black Aces; a group of African-American pitchers with at least one twenty-win season – although he was born and raised in Canada. His career numbers were impressive enough to earn him a spot in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987 and in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1991, where he is still the only Canadian-born player to be inducted. In honour of Ferguson Jenkins during Black History Month, a stamp was made and distributed across Canada earlier this year to honour the baseball legend that helped open doors for kids all over Canada; whether they are a pitcher or not. He has shown people everywhere that impossible is a word that is made up, as the little boy from Chatham, Ontario rose to the top and took home awards for being the league’s best pitcher.
To learn more about the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, visit http://www.fergiejenkinsfoundation.org/