Cubs History: 50 years ago, Fergie Jenkins had a two-way day to remember

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

For a Chicago Cubs franchise that has a history of incredible talents that dazzled generations of fans, Fergie Jenkins serves as one of the greatest. He’s arguably the greatest pitcher in team history and is now, finally, receiving a statue outside of Wrigley. By all regards, he’s an immortal Cub seen as part of the team’s big four Hall of Famers, along with Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. He was also responsible for one of the best two-way performances in the team’s history.

Jenkins was a pitcher that, in terms of consistency and innings pitched, would run circles around a lot of modern pitchers. An underrated part of his game, however, was his bat. Now, I’m not about to suggest that he was Shohei Ohtani before Ohtani, but Jenkins mashed 13 home runs throughout his career and, on one fateful day in September, he played the role of a two-way menace against Montreal.

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On September 1, 1971, Jenkins was wrapping up his Cy Young-winning season, leading the league in wins, innings pitched, and strikeout to walk ratio. Facing the now-defunct Expos, Jenkins pitched yet another masterful performance, allowing only two runs with only one earned in a complete game. That’s all well and good, but he also single-handedly won the game with his bat, pulling out the driver to greet the team of his home country.

Jenkins first faced starter Bill Stoneman. Stoneman had a pretty solid year in his own right, pitching to a 3.15 ERA in over 290 innings and finishing eighth in Cy Young voting. It didn’t matter. Jenkins took him yard in the fifth inning with a man on, as if single-handedly kicking his competition down the rungs of the award ladder. No one was allowed to approach his lofty perch atop the National League.

Fergie Jenkins was a dual threat for the Chicago Cubs on that September day

It wasn’t enough for him, as just a couple of innings later, Jenkins crushed another ball off unfortunate reliever, Jim Britton who had just entered for Stoneman. Three RBI. Just enough to beat the Expos offense on his own. The performance was enough to boost Jenkins’ OPS 82 points and by the end of the year, it was enough to give him an OPS+ of 102. On a whole, it’s not enough to call him the best offensive pitcher in Cubs history, but he did grab that elusive achievement that neither Carlos Zambrano nor Milt Pappas could ever reach: a multi-homer game.

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This game is a testament to how dominant an athlete Jenkins was in his prime. Nearing the first Cy Young in Cubs history, he put together a game for the ages that could rival a proper two-way player, dominating on both ends of the ball even with some stiff competition pitching against him. Even in the era of Ohtani, it’s an impressive feat, especially when some pitchers, like Kyle Hendricks, are still looking for their first bomb.