I’m well into my seventh decade as a Chicago Cubs fan. In that time I’ve seen a lot of players come and go, from Chuck Connors and Hank Sauer to Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the new statue coming to Wrigley Field and you’re wondering about this Fergie Jenkins guy? Watch out, I’m about to involve you in a family argument.
Recreational arguments about the Cubs – a pastime in my family
The news of the Jenkins statue coming to Wrigley put me in a nostalgic mood. For many years, recreational arguing about the team was an integral part of my family’s sports endeavors.
One argument resurrected time and again was “Who was the best Cubs pitcher ever?” Since my youngest brother had an encyclopedic memory of old Cubs, citing my status as the oldest, I always insisted that we confine our candidates to my lifetime. I didn’t want to have to deal with the old Mordecai ‘Three-Fingered’ Brown debate.
It usually came down to five names: Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, Rick Reuschel, Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter. My next youngest brother always argued for the last two, but I dismissed them by saying we would only look at starters.
The best Cubs starting pitchers?
That left us with Jenkins, Reuschel and Maddux. Maddux is out because, despite two successful stints with Chicago, he did his best work for the Atlanta Braves. Okay, so we’re down to Reuschel and Jenkins.
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As good as Rueschel was, and he was good, my support always went to Jenkins.
Reuschel spent parts of 12 years on the North Side, Jenkins 10. Their statistics are comparable. But I think there are two sets of numbers that work in Fergie’s favor. One is, of course, the 1971 Cy Young Award he won. The other is innings pitched per game.
Two great, durable Cubs pitchers
In his career, Rick averaged 6.37 innings pitched per game. That’s impressive. By comparison, in 2019 starting pitchers averaged 5.2 innings per game. Do you know what Jenkins averaged over his nineteen year career? A staggering 6.78! Greater than an inning and a half more than starting pitchers in 2019, and that includes the American League with the DH where they don’t get pulled for a pitch hitter.
It’s got to be Jenkins. Congratulations on the statue Fergie, it’s an honor that is well-deserved. You were the best Cubs pitcher I’ve ever seen – hands-down.