Chicago Cubs: The Heroes of Wrigley Series presents Ferguson Jenkins
Fergie Jenkins dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player but instead became one of baseball’s premier pitchers during the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Canadian born Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins was a consistent player with remarkable control. He demanded attention while on the mound providing a statement of power, form, relaxation, and repetitiveness, trademarks of Jenkins. He repeated that motion for 19 seasons, 4,500 2/3 innings pitched, 284 wins and 226 losses for mostly terrible teams.
Jenkins grew up a natural athlete, excelling in several sports in school including track, basketball, hockey and baseball, lettering five times. He dreamt of one day becoming a professional hockey player, competing in Canada’s highest league, but soon found himself drawn to baseball. Perhaps, it was in his pedigree as his father was once a semi-pro player for an all-black team. His mother, an ancestor of slaves who fled to Canada after escaping the southern United States via the Underground Railroad, was also a terrific bowler.
As a child, he grew up living across the street from a coal yard. He and his friends would pick up pieces of coal or rocks and try and hit the ice chute when the rubber flaps would open. It prompted great accuracy and timing. While his long arms and lanky legs made him a perfect fit as a first baseman, he soon began to gain notoriety as a pitcher, using those abilities he learned at the coal yard to overpower and stump opposing batters.
One person who Jenkins caught the eye of was Gene Dziadura. Dziadura was a former shortstop in the Chicago Cubs minor league system and a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. He saw a great deal of talent in Jenkins and began to guide him in training sessions until Jenkins graduated high school and then quickly signed by Philadelphia in 1962.
After several years in the minor leagues, Jenkins was called up in the latter part of the 1965 season. He appeared in seven games, going 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA.
On April 21, 1966, after appearing in just one game for the Phillies, Jenkins was traded to the Chicago Cubs and his illustrious career at the Friendly Confines began.