Jan. 10, 2008
IOWA CITY — Three-time all-star pitcher Fergie Jenkins took a break from his routine Wednesday, Jan. 8, to express his excitement for Goose Gossage entering baseball’s Hall of Fame. When Gossage’s plaque is unveiled in Cooperstown, N.Y., it will join one with the name Ferguson Arthur Jenkins, who spent 19 seasons hurling for the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.
Jenkins, who entered the Hall of Fame in 1991, is the guest of honor at the fifth annual University of Iowa baseball Lead-Off Dinner on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Coralville Marriott Hotel.
“Events like this make me think that maybe my name is still popular,” said Jenkins with a laugh. “Making it into the Hall of Fame added a lot of credibility to what my career was all about.”
Jenkins won 284 games (against 226 losses) during his career. He won the Cy Young Award in 1971 after going 24-13 with a 2.77 ERA for the Cubs. He was runner-up for the Cy Young in 1967 with the Cubs (20-13, 2.80) and in 1974 with the Rangers (25-12, 2.82).
Over that 19-year span, Jenkins competed with, for or against the likes of Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Carlton Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski, Billy Martin, Hank Aaron, Leo Durocher, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal.
“I played against the greatest players of all time,” Jenkins said. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The game has changed tremendously since I played with new ball parks, money, free agency. And some of these young men are not playing the game fairly.”
Jenkins broke into major league baseball on Sept. 10, 1965 with the Phillies. He threw 4 1/3 innings of two-hit ball with a strikeout as he earned the victory against St. Louis. His final game was Sept. 26, 1983 as a member of the Cubs — a team with which he spent nine seasons. During that time he logged 4,500 innings and registered 3,192 strikeouts. Despite a long list of career highlights, it wasn’t difficult for Jenkins to pinpoint his most cherished memory.
“My first All-Star game in 1967 in Anaheim (Calif.),” Jenkins said. “It was the first (All-Star) night game. I struck out six batters in three innings including Mickey Mantle.”
Jenkins fanned Harmon Killebrew, Tony Conigliaro, Mantle, Jim Fregosi, Rod Carew and Tony Oliva. He allowed a home run to Brooks Robinson. Jenkins and his National League teammates eventually won the game, 2-1, in 15 innings.
Jenkins entered the Hall of Fame with a class that included Carew and pitcher Gaylord Perry.
“I went in with some great company,” he said.
Jenkins, who resides in Anthem, Ariz., still attends a dozen or more major league games a season. Much of his spare time is spent playing golf in the community located 30 miles north of Phoenix. Jenkins said he has friends in DeWitt and Davenport and visits Iowa frequently.
“I follow the Hawkeye football team quite a bit,” Jenkins said.
Hear more from Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins at the fifth annual University of Iowa baseball Lead-Off Dinner is Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Coralville Marriott Hotel. A VIP Reception begins at 5 p.m. with dinner and program beginning at 6:30 p.m. For tickets, call the UI Sports Marketing Office at 319-335-9431.
In 1965 when Jenkins began his major league career, there were 16 teams. Now there are 30. There are no more Sunday doubleheaders and Monday’s off. A current steroid scandal has placed a cloud over America’s pastime.
“It was a business when I played, but it is more of a business now,” Jenkins said. “Nothing compared to the era when I played. You’ve got players like Barry Bonds today. I played 11 years against Hank Aaron and believe me, Barry Bonds is no Hank Aaron.”
Jenkins grew up in a small town near Detroit where each Saturday he was able to watch a major league game on NBC television. He idolized Mantle, Mays, Al Kaline, Larry Doby, Jackie Robinson, Whitey Ford and Gibson. He adopted a game-day routine from Marichal.
“Juan always ran out to the mound,” Jenkins said. “So then I started running to the mound before the inning and ran back to the dugout when the inning was over.”
After playing 401 games with the Cubs, Jenkins admits that there is still an allegiance and a soft spot in his heart for the North-Siders.
“Oh, I’m definitely still a Cubs fan,” he said. “I’m waiting for them to win. People still love watching day baseball and it’s a tradition that goes back a long time. There is a great love for the Cubs because it is a great organization, not because they have been losers.”
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