Ferguson Jenkins goes into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night. In honor of one of baseball's greatest 20-game winners, here are 20 things you ought to know about the man who lived in Guthrie for 17 years.
1. With the Chicago Cubs, Jenkins won at least 20 games in six straight seasons, 1967-72: 20-13, 20-15, 21-15, 22-16, 24-13, 20-12. The Cubs have had three 20-win seasons in the 40 years since 1972.
2. Jenkins is the greatest baseball player ever from Canada. I suppose Larry Walker and Joey Votto win the silver and bronze.
3. While pitching coach with the Oklahoma City 89ers, Jenkins bought a horse ranch outside Guthrie, not because he wanted to try something new. He wanted something familiar. While a Cub, Jenkins would return to Ontario in the off-season and help his dad run their horse ranch.
4. Among the managers Jenkins played for were Gene Mauch, Leo Durocher, Billy Martin and Don Zimmer. Somehow, he missed Dick Williams and Whitey Herzog. The Cubs lost 103 games in 1966. “Every day was a meeting,” Jenkins said. “Every day was Leo Durocher walking up and down the room, letting us know what we did wrong.”
5. Jenkins moved from Oklahoma because his wife was scared to death of tornadoes after the 1999 twisters. What are you going to do?
6. All you have to know about Jenkins' Oklahoma pedigree is this. Oklahoma City's Cal McLish, whose baseball career as a player and coach spanned from commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to Ichiro Suzuki, taught Jenkins how to throw a slider during winter ball in Puerto Rico.
7. Most people assume that the best pitching rotation of the 1970s was the 1971 Baltimore quartet of Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson, each of whom won 20 games that season. But baseball historian Bill James says those Birds were second. No. 1 was the 1970 Cubs – Jenkins, Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands and Milt Pappas.
8. Jenkins grew up just outside Chatham, Ontario, which in the 1950s was not so much bigger than modern-day Guthrie. “I was raised in the country, so I was used to small towns, the atmosphere, friendly people,” Jenkins said.
9. Jenkins works for the Cubs, the franchise for which he starred, and still gets back to Chicago on a regular basis. And still is recognized by Cub fans. “Nice to know that people remember you for what you've contributed to the ballclub,” Jenkins said.
10. Jenkins helped Richard Hendricks establish the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie. Monday night, Hendricks will introduce Jenkins at the Hall of Fame banquet.
11. In the 1967 All-Star Game, the National League trotted out Juan Marichal, Jenkins, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale and Tom Seaver among its seven pitchers. The game went 15 innings. The National League won 2-1. The AL's lone run? Brooks Robinson's one-out home run in the sixth inning, off Jenkins, who pitched three innings.
12. Like every other kid in Canada, Jenkins' first sport was ice hockey. But his second sport was not baseball. It was basketball. In fact, Jenkins spent two off-seasons playing with the Harlem Globetrotters. His great National League rival, Gibson, played two years with the Trotters', too.
13. Jenkins made the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, along with Rod Carew and Gaylord Perry. 1991 was Jenkins' third year of eligibility for Cooperstown. A pitcher of Jenkins' caliber today would make the Hall of Fame in a near-unanimous vote.
14. Jenkins led the league in home runs allowed seven times, the most in baseball history. He's third on the all-time list of home runs allowed, with 484. Jamie Moyer gave up 522 and Robin Roberts 505.
15. Jenkins led the league in fewest walks per nine innings five times. He threw the ball over the plate. It's clear what Fergie was doing. He played a big chunk of his career in a bandbox, Wrigley Field. Give up a home run? OK. But there wasn't going to be anyone on base when it happened.
16. Jenkins' first experience with Oklahoma City was in the 1964 and 1965 Pacific Coast League. He pitched for the Arkansas Travelers, against the 89ers.
17. Jenkins got acquainted with Southwest culture during six seasons with the Rangers. He went 93-72 from 1974-75 and 1978-81. “Oklahoma's right close to Texas,” Jenkins said. “I adapted to the style. I had cowboy boots, cowboy hat. I was pretty adaptable.”
18. Jenkins' mother was blind. She never got to see him pitch. “The fans that have seen me, I hope I performed well for them,” Jenkins said.
19. Jenkins' roommate with the Cubs was Ernie Banks. With Ron Santo's induction last week, four players on those grand old Cub team now are in Cooperstown – Jenkins, Banks, Santo and Billy Williams.
20. In April 1966, the Phillies traded the 23-year-old Jenkins, with two major league wins to his name, and two other players to the Cubs for 35-year-old pitcher Larry Jackson and 37-year-old pitcher Bob Buhl. Buhl and Jackson combined to win 47 games the rest of their careers. Jenkins went on to win 282 more big-league games.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.