Ferguson “Fergie” Arthur Jenkins is arguably one of the most talented pitchers in baseball history. His career record includes 3,192 strikeouts, 284 wins, and 3,192 innings pitched.
Jenkins played for 19 years in Major League Baseball (MLB) and had a number of successes during that time.
A Brief History Of Fergie Jenkins
Jenkins was born in Chatham, Ontario in 1942. His mother was a descendant of enslaved Americans who escaped through the Underground Railway. His father and namesake played semi-pro baseball with the Chatham Coloured All-Stars.
Growing up around sports, Jenkins excelled at baseball, track, basketball, and hockey. He even played with the Harlem Globetrotters and competed in the highest amateur hockey league in Canada.
“During my last (Junior B) season, I was getting ready to sign with the Phillies. They expected me to show up healthy, so I figured I better quit aggravating the hip. There just wasn’t enough padding in the pelvis pad back then. So I stopped playing before the hockey season ended.” — Fergie Jenkins
When Jenkins was 15, he was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies and was signed on in 1962.
Experiencing Racism In Baseball
In an interview, Jenkins shared, “At 18 years old, leaving Ontario, Canada, and going playing ball in Miami, you weren’t allowed to go to Miami Beach, you’re weren’t allowed to go to the same hotels, eat in the same restaurants. It was an eye-opening experience.” He continues, “Chattanooga was a little better, not much. And then Little Rock was, aagh, it was devastating, especially to Dick Allen.”
Jenkins and the other players of colour were often banned from hotels where their white teammates stayed. There were also times they couldn’t eat in restaurants. Instead, their white teammates had to bring food back to the bus.
In another interview, he recalls that segregation “was just part of growing up.” He goes on to explain, “When the [Civil Rights Act] was passed in ’64, a lot of things changed. And then Martin Luther King (Jr.) came on the scene and they got even better. But then, it really didn’t get better.”
Things got better in 1965 when he started his first season with the Phillies.
“In the majors, there was no problem at all (with racism),” he said. “I never had any problems. When I got to the big leagues in ’65 with the Phillies and was traded to Chicago, I never had any problems at all. It was all in the minor leagues. Basically, my 2½, three years within the South. It was an eye-opening experience.”
How Fergie Jenkins Made A Name For Himself
It was in 1967 when Jenkins was acquired by the Chicago Cubs that he really began to make a mark in the MLB.
Between 1967 and 1972, Jenkins had six straight 20-win seasons and threw 140 complete games. Over his career, he would play for the Texas Rangers (twice) and the Boston Red Sox, before returning to the Cubs and retiring. By the end of his career in 1983, he had 3,000 strikeouts and less than 1,000 walks, which was a first for a league pitcher.
His was also:
- Canadian Press Male Athlete Of The Year in 1967, 1968, 1971 and 1974
- The first Canadian and Cub pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in 1971
- Sporting News Pitcher Of The Year in 1971
- The first baseball player to receive the Lou Marsh Award in 1974 for Canada’s top athlete
- Inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987
- The first (and only Canadian up to 2014) inducted into the National Baseball League Hall of Fame in 1991
- Inducted onto Canada’s Walk Of Fame in 2001
- The recipient of the Order Of Canada in 2007
- Inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame in 2012
- The founder of the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, which has raised millions for charities
In 2010, he was honoured with a Canadian Postage Stamp for Black History Month and did a 46-city tour promoting the stamp and Black History initiatives.
Fergie Jenkins is a legend in both Canadian and Major League Baseball history. Not only was he a talented pitcher, but he is also a strong supporter of Black Heritage groups and charitable causes.
Featured Image – Title: Jenkins 31. Author: ScottRAnselmo. Source: Wikimedia; image resized and cropped