Time Capsule: When Fergie Was A Major

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com
Photos by Jeffrey Reed Copyright 1992-Present

Before Cooperstown rightfully honored Canadian pitcher Ferguson Arthur Jenkins with membership into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, the London baseball community was well aware of Fergie’s love of the game and first class demeanor. Why else would one of baseball’s greatest hurlers – a seven-time 20-game winner – return to semi-pro baseball?img252

In 1984, after retiring following 19 years of Major League service, Jenkins took former London Majors owner Arden Eddie up on his offer to join the ballclub. What a thrill it would be for both London baseball fans and the Majors.

Eddie recalled, “Fergie was just one of the guys riding the bus with us, telling stories. He was a classy guy. In fact, when someone got a hit off of him – which wasn’t very often – they never showed him up, never said a word.  There was nothing but total respect for the man.”

Jenkins had just finished his professional playing days with the 1983 Chicago Cubs. He joined the Majors for the 1984 season. In 12 starts, he completed 10 games and finished 9-3 with 81 strikeouts, only seven walks and a 2.30 ERA. Jenkins also impressed with his bat, hitting at a .384 clip with seven doubles and three HR, 24 RBI and 12 runs scored. Jenkins’ nine wins were tops in the IBL that season, and his 81 strikeouts tied Stratford Hillers’ Dennis Coplen for first. London finished 21-11 and lost in a quarter-final playoff.

Jenkins returned to the Majors for 14 games in 1985, occasionally taking the mound and still impressing with his bat. Finishing with a .367 BA, Jenkins more importantly hit 1.000 with his teammates and the local baseball fans. London finished 16-20 and again lost in a quarter-final.

No one knows more about Jenkins’ pitching talent than the batters who faced him while he threw smoke for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.  After signing as a lanky all-around athlete from Chatham in 1962, Jenkins played four years of minor pro ball before suiting up for the Phillies on Opening Day in 1966.  Between 1967 and 1972 while battling for a less-than-impressive Cubs club, he accumulated six consecutive 20-win seasons.img254

A winner of 284 games with 3,192 strikeouts under his belt, Jenkins won the 1971 National League Cy Young award and was the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 1974.  Four times, Jenkins was named Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year. He’s a member of the Order of Canada, and was enshrined into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

In April of this year, Jenkins, along with shortstop Ozzie Smith, outfielder Rickey Henderson and pitcher Luis Tiant were inducted into the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s Hall of Game. The museum, celebrating its 25th anniversary, established the Hall Of Game in 2014.

On June 5, 1992 the Majors, along with a capacity crowd at Labatt Park, celebrated Fergie Jenkins Night. His No. 31 was retired by the ballclub. Members of the 1984 and ’85 Majors lined the first base line while Jenkins thanked Londoners for their support.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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