Fergie Jenkins honoured with Canada Post stamp

Fergie Jenkins, the baseball hall-of-fame pitcher from Chatham, Ont., was on hand Monday in Ottawa to see Canada Post conduct a print run of stamps bearing his image that will commemorate Black History Month in February.

From a descendant of slaves to baseball's hall of fame and having his image on a Canadian stamp, Ferguson Jenkins has come a long way in his 68 years.

The native of Chatham, Ont., received a truly unique birthday gift Monday when he was on hand in Ottawa to see Canada Post conduct a print run of Fergie Jenkins stamps that will commemorate Black History Month in February.

"My family came with the Underground Railroad in the 1800s, so it's pretty unique," said Jenkins, referring to the secret network that smuggled slaves to freedom in Canada from the United States.

"My mother always told me you have to be proud of your heritage and where you're born. That's a big plus for me."

Jenkins is just the second Canadian who's ever had the opportunity to see the printing run in progress as their image is put indelibly on a Canada Post stamp. Acadian singer-songwriter Edith Butler was the other.

Jenkins, a member of the Order of Canada, says the stamp provides an historic bookend to a major-league career for which his image was first printed on a baseball card in 1965.

"As a kid you grow up: 'Do you think I could really be a professional athlete and get put on a baseball card?' which is pretty fantastic. And now you're on a stamp — especially for your country."

The 59-cent stamp depicts a young Jenkins on the pitcher's mound with the Chicago Cubs, set behind a modern photo of Jenkins on the Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto in 2001. His Order of Canada medal hangs between the images.

"Seeing all those stamps run off, it's pretty historical," said Jenkins. "My kids are going to be more proud, I think, than I am. I have three daughters that still live in Ontario."

Jenkins is the only Canadian to date inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., although he said Monday he expects Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., may join him one of these years.

Jenkins pitched for the Cubs, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox during a major-league career that spanned 19 years. He holds the 12th-highest strikeout total in major-league history and won the Cy Young award in 1971.

In his spare time, the Chatham kid who grew up playing hockey, basketball and baseball was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

He founded the charitable Fergie Jenkins Foundation in 2000.