Chicago Cubs: Fergie Jenkins should receive the next Wrigley Field statue
Currently, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Harry Caray have statues at Wrigley Field. The next man the Chicago Cubs should honor? Fergie Jenkins.
Right now, just three players have statues located outside the Friendly Confines – and they’re all Hall of Famers: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. All are unquestionably deserving of the honor, given their three of the most beloved Chicago Cubs players of all time.
I’m not arguing against any of those legends, or iconic broadcaster Harry Caray, receiving such an honor. But there’s a key man yet to receive such recognition, despite having his number 31 retired by the franchise back in 1987: longtime ace Fergie Jenkins.
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Jenkins’ run from 1967 to 1972 was nothing short of outstanding. He didn’t just win 20 games once – he won 20 or more in each of those six campaigns. The fewest innings he pitched in any of those seasons? 289 1/3 – surpassing the 300-inning plateau four times.
As you can tell by his innings pitched and win totals, Jenkins usually put the team on his back when he toed the rubber. In all six of those dazzling campaigns, he tossed a minimum of 20 complete games.
His best single-season (which, picking just one is a daunting task in and of itself) came in 1971, when he brought home National League Cy Young honors. At that time, Jenkins was the first-ever Cub to accomplish the feat. Since then, he’s been joined by four others: Bruce Sutter, Rick Sutcliffe, Greg Maddux and Jake Arrieta. Both Maddux and Sutter are enshrined in Cooperstown along with Jenkins.
In 1971, Jenkins won a National League-best 24 contests, making 39 starts and tossing 30 – yes, that’s right – 30 complete games, the tops in all of Major League Baseball. He worked to a 2.38 FIP across his 325 innings of work, simply put, turning in one of the most impressive seasons by any Cubs pitcher in history.
The big right-hander started a franchise-record seven Opening Days for Chicago and, to this day, is tied for the big league record for Opening Day starts with 11. In short, Jenkins was the guy you wanted to hand the ball to – and with good reason.
"“That was the fun part of it,” Jenkins told NBC Sports Chicago. “Just to tell yourself after all the hard work you did in spring training that if I’m not ready to compete today, I’m going to lose.”"
Taking all this into account, the real question that comes to my mind, personally, is how have the Cubs not paid homage to Jenkins with a statue already? We’re talking about a guy who is the franchise’s all-time pitching leader in: WAR, strikeouts and games started. He ranks fifth in wins, third in innings pitched, fourth in shutouts and fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Jenkins is the best modern era starting pitcher in Chicago Cubs history. When the world turns back upright and baseball returns, just imagine it: Opening Day 2021 at Wrigley Field with Fergie Jenkins and the Cubs brass crowding around a statue outside the stadium, becoming the next permanent landmark in Wrigleyville.