CBC Digital Archives

1991: Fergie Jenkins named first Canadian in Baseball Hall of Fame

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The road from his birthplace in Chatham, Ont., to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., has been fraught with struggles for pitching legend Ferguson Jenkins. But those troubles -- the losing teams, the divorce, that cocaine incident in Toronto -- are mostly behind him now. Jenkins has a new family, two small children, and a sprawling farm in Oklahoma. This week's induction ceremony was supposed to be a career highlight. Instead, it's a bittersweet emotional roller-coaster.

A mere four days after Jenkins learned he would receive the honour, his second wife died from injuries sustained in a car accident. That was in January. Now it's August, and Jenkins is about to become Canada's first baseball hall of famer. But, as we see in this documentary by CBC Television's Allen Abel, it's becoming a single parent that most overwhelms Fergie Jenkins.
• Ferguson Arthur Jenkins was born on Dec. 13th, 1943, in Chatham, Ont. His father, Ferguson Sr., was a chef whose family hailed from the Bahamas, and his mother Delores' ancestors were slaves who escaped to Canada through the underground railway.

• A powerful athlete (6' 5", 210 lbs), Jenkins excelled at baseball, hockey and basketball (he played with the Harlem Globetrotters in the off-seasons of 1967-1969.)

• After graduating from high school, Jenkins was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1963 as a relief pitcher. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1966, and immediately became a stellar starting pitcher.

• Jenkins was known for his pinpoint accuracy and his durability, a deadly combination that netted the right-hander both strikeout records and many complete games pitched.

Fergie Jenkins was selected to the All Star Game three times:
• 1967 (striking out six All Star Game batters, including Mickey Mantle).
• 1971 (leading the National League with 24 wins, pitching 30 complete games to become the Cubs' first National League Cy Young winner).
• 1972 (leading the league in putouts by a pitcher).

• Jenkins was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1973. In 1974 he won a franchise-high 25 games, a record that still stands. He easily adjusted to the American League, and became just the fourth pitcher in history to win 100 games in both leagues.

• In 1980 in Toronto, a customs official searching Jenkins found a small amount of cocaine, hashish and marijuana. Major League Baseball banned him for life, but in an unprecedented move, an independent arbitrator reinstated him the following year.

• Jenkins was traded three more times (to the Boston Red Sox in 1975, back to the Rangers in 1977 and back to the Cubs in 1982) before he retired in 1983. Despite his pitching prowess, Jenkins never played for a team that won a pennant or made it to the World Series.

• Fergie Jenkins has seven seasons in which he won 20 or more games (although in this clip, the reporter says six seasons). He is the only pitcher in history to record more than 3,000 strikeouts and less than 1,000 walks.

In several statistical categories, Fergie Jenkins remains one of the best pitchers in baseball history:
• 363 putouts (3rd).
• 3192 strikeouts (9th).
• 49 career shutouts (tied for 21st).
• 284 wins (tied for 24th).
• 4,500 innings pitched (25th).

• Fergie Jenkins became a member of the Order of Canada in 1979, and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary's, Ont., in 1987. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1991. His plaque makes note of his "pinpoint control" and the fact that he maintained a 3.34 ERA (earned run average ) "despite playing 12 of his 19 year career in hitters' ballparks -- Wrigley Field and Fenway Park."

• Fergie Jenkins' personal life was filled with sadness. His first marriage ended in divorce. In 1988 Jenkins remarried, and moved to a ranch near Guthrie, Okla. His second wife died in an automobile accident in 1991. Jenkins found love again, but on Dec. 15, 1992, his common-law wife committed suicide in a tragedy that also claimed the life of his three-year-old daughter Samantha. He remarried in 1993.

• Jenkins returned to baseball to become a pitching coach for his former teams. In 2000, he launched the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, an organization that has raised more than half a million dollars for numerous charities through annual golf tournaments.

• Fergie Jenkins joined Canada's Walk of Fame in 2001. In 2003, he became commissioner of the Canadian Baseball League, but that league lasted only one season. He moved to Anthem, Ariz., in 2003 and was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in 2004.

Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: July 19, 1991
Guest(s): Randy Hunley, Ferguson Jenkins, Ferguson Jenkins, Sr.
Reporter: Allen Abel
Duration: 15:38
Baseball footage: Major League Baseball.

Last updated: July 21, 2014

Page consulted on July 22, 2014

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