By Ross Forman
He hails from Canada, where hockey is king.
He made is name in baseball, with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
He collects autographed basketballs, and has more than 65 signed balls, mostly Hall of Famers dating back to players from the 1960s, including Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain, among others.
Ferguson Arthur Jenkins, known in the sporting world as simply Fergie, is certainly a stellar sports ambassador – classy, friendly and professional.
And he certainly was a pretty good pitcher, too.
Jenkins, a right-hander, broke into the majors with Philadelphia in 1965. He went to the Cubs in 1966, where he played through 1973 and then again to end his career in 1982-83. His career also included stints with the Texas Rangers (twice) and Boston Red Sox.
He finished with a 284-226 career record, with a 3.34 ERA and 3,192 strikeouts.
Jenkins was a three-time All-Star (1967, 1971, 1972), the 1971 National League Cy Young Award-winner, a two-time wins leader (1971, 1974), and the 1969 NL strikeout leader. His uniform No. 31 has been retired by the Cubs and he’s also been enshrined in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.
“I had great teammates,” Jenkins said. “You can’t win without teammates.”
Jenkins signed with the Phillies out of high school and made it to the majors in less than three years. But, when he was sent to the Cubs, “I went from a first-place team with (fellow Hall of Famer) Jim Bunning to a last-place team,” he said, laughing.
Jenkins pitched for the Cubs when the team lost 103 games in 1966.
“It was not a lot of fun going to Wrigley Field, especially (for) day games when no one showed up; (there were, maybe,) 5,000 fans (in attendance),” Jenkins said of that dismal 1966 season. “Our locker room, alone, was really, really bad – not what you see in stadiums nowadays. It was so small; I still don’t know how it housed 25 players.
There were chain-link lockers. We had six showers, yet only three worked.”
Today, Wrigley Field and the neighboring Wrigleyville area of Chicago, is being renovated into a must-see travel destination.
“The new owners (of the Cubs) have really done a great job with the ball club, including Wrigley (Field),” Jenkins said. “Wrigley Field will have a new Cubs locker room that is 30,000 square-feet, with nine rooms, including a training room, cafeteria, clubhouse, waiting room for the (player’s) wives, etc.”
Yes, everything is glamorous for the Cubs these days. After all, the Cubs are the defending 2016 World Series champions.
“Of course, I was very happy (last November) when they clinched (the World Series) in Cleveland. Chicago of course was crazy,” said Jenkins, who did not attend the post-series parade and rally in downtown Chicago, which drew an estimated 5 million Cubs faithful from, literally, around the world.
The 2016 Cubs played great baseball, Jenkins said. And drawing 5 million fans was a great tribute to the organization and was great for the city, he added.
“The team really showed its capabilities after losing (Games Three and Four) in Chicago, to fall behind 3-1 in the Series – and I was there for those games,” Jenkins said.
The Cubs, of course, regrouped – and when first baseman Anthony Rizzo caught a throw from third baseman Kris Bryant for the final out in Game 7, Chicago went wild.
The Cubs championship team was honored in mid-January by, arguably, the nation’s most prominent White Sox fan: former President Obama, with a White House celebration.
Jenkins was among the Cubs contingent in Washington D.C.
And Jenkins was even called out personally by Obama.
“The (White House) security, ugh, was kind of overblown,” he said, laughing. “They invite 25 athletes, nine coaches, front-office (personnel) and a couple of Hall of Famers (who had played for the team) to the White House … and we had to go through security five times.
“They repeatedly asked who I was … ugh, you invited me. C’mon give me a break.”
During the ceremony with Obama, the team presented the former President with a jersey that said CUBS across the front. Then, Obama was presented with a second jersey that said CHICAGO across the front, as team officials speculated, and stated, that maybe he’d be more likely to wear a jersey that simply said the name of his native city.
But Obama stood strong.
“I said, ‘President Obama, how about putting that jersey on. I know you’re a White Sox fan, but for one day, put the Cubs jersey on,’” Jenkins said.
Obama replied, ‘No way, Fergie.’
“He should have saluted the Cubs, (by) putting the jersey on and celebrating with the ball club. But it didn’t happen,” Jenkins said, laughing.