It was a warm, overcast day outside Wrigley Field and all of the speakers were struggling to keep their notes on the podium with the wind swirling as it is wont to do at the Friendly Confines. Before the ceremony started I could hear the wind echoing in the microphones and was a bit worried it might distract from the ceremony at hand. But then Pat Hughes stepped to the microphone to describe just a few of the incredible statistics that characterized Ferguson Jenkins’ outstanding career, including a run where he won at least 20 games from 1967-1972.
As I imagine was true for most of his Hall of Fame career with the Cubs, the wind continued to howl, but it was merely a backdrop in the face of the talent on display in the the brilliant career of Ferguson Jenkins.
The morning began with a Jenkins’ classic game on the big screen from 1972 between the Cubs and Giants. Cubs fans came from far and wide. Cubs Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Ryne Sandberg, and Andre Dawson were all in attendance in the audience to celebrate this storied career. Billy Williams was on the dais to share some remarks about his teammate, including notes about his exceptional athletic ability that included playing hockey at the highest level without going pro and playing with the Harlem Globetrotters in the offseason.
In addition to the Cubs Hall of Famers, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, Adam Jones and CC Sabathia were in the crowd. Taylor McGregor interviewed Sabathia, a likely future Hall of Fame pitcher with 251 career wins and 3,093 strike outs to ask about what Fergie meant to him. Sabathia noted that Fergie had always been a great friend and mentor. You could sense his amazement as he noted that Fergie has more complete games than CC had wins in the big leagues.
CC is correct because as exceptional as his multi-sport talent is, the numbers from Jenkins’ Hall of Fame career are jaw-dropping, particularly in an era that has seen pitchers focus on shorter outings with more overpowering pitches. Chairman of the Chicago Cubs Tom Ricketts read the stats of last year’s National League Cy Young award winner: an 11-5 record, 167 innings pitched — Ricketts joked that was basically the All Star break for Jenkins whose stats were periodically on display on the big screen at Gallagher Way and also via Cubs Twitter:
Ricketts noted that Jenkins’ 267 career complete games are more than every active MLB pitcher combined. Hughes described just a few of the unbelievable stats from Jenkins’ 1971 Cy Young winning season including a 24-13 record, 30 complete games, 325 innings pitched, 263 strikeouts to only 37 walks, and an incredible 6 home runs hit, including two in one game against the Montreal Expos.
As Fergie arrived he was clearly a bit emotional. You could see residents of hometown of Chatham, Ontario waving Canadian flags in the standing room only crowd on Gallagher Way. It was a perfect moment as the statue was unveiled:
The statue was commissioned by The Fine Art Studio of Roblatt-Amrany, the same company that produced the statues of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams, which have all been moved to Gallagher Way creating a statue row of Cubs heroes. The statue’s sculptor was Lou Cella. Cella noted that his father was a huge Jenkins fan who had passed away shortly before he was asked to take on this project. You can sense the emotion in the statue:
Fergie is throwing a changeup in the statue that will immortalize his career outside Wrigley Field. He described the photo shoot from Sports Illustrated that inspired the statue to Cole Wright and Mark Grace shortly after the statue was unveiled in an interview for the Cubs Live pre-game show.
Fergie took the podium to a standing ovation and a Fergie chant from the crowd. He noted that as a kid throwing rocks at passenger trains he never dreamed of a day like this. He thanked his teammates and coaches in turn, and credited his mother Dolores with his 267 career complete games, noting that she told him you always need to finish what you start:
Happy Mothers Day to my Mom Delores and Moms everywhere. Without her, I wouldn’t be the man that I am. pic.twitter.com/pJMD6N2UTD— Fergie Jenkins (@fergieajenkins) May 8, 2022
As the festivities at Gallagher Way wrapped up, Jenkins expressed his appreciation to the Cubs, his teammates, and, the fans, including the bleacher bums who he characterized as “truly the best fans in baseball.”
Jenkins will sing the seventh inning stretch during Friday afternoon’s Cubs game against the Diamondbacks, but he was more nervous for his eight-month-old grandson who threw out the first pitch. He did an outstanding job:
Previous generations of Cubs fans were in awe of Jenkins for the 19 years he toed the rubber as an MLB pitcher. On Friday, multiple generations of Jenkins were on hand to join fans and celebrate Fergie’s remarkable career. It is humbling to know that future generations of Cubs fans will marvel at that career as they visit Statue Row on Gallagher Way far into the future.