Baseball Digest Birthdays: Fergie Jenkins

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Before Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling arrived on the scene, Ferguson Jenkins was the first player in Major League history to record 3,000 strikeouts while issuing less than 1,000 walks. On the flip side of that coin, aside from the late Robin Roberts and current player Jamie Moyer, nobody has allowed more career home runs than Jenkins. On December 13th Fergie Jenkins celebrates his 68th birthday, and here’s a look at the highs and lows of one of the greatest to play the game.

Signed out of high school as an amateur free agent in 1962 by the Philadelphia Phillies, Jenkins reached the big leagues by 1965. After just a cup of coffee with the Phillies in 1965 and 1966, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in a multi-player deal that immediately payed dividends for the Cubs. In his first full season with the Cubs in 1967, Jenkins won 20 games and finished second in the voting for National League Cy Young Award.

Over the next six seasons, Jenkins established himself as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. Aside from winning 20 or more games in each season, he struck out 1,490 batters while issuing just 378 walks while leading the league three times in complete games and games started. The 1971 National League Cy Young Award winner threw 154 complete games over the course of his 10 seasons in Chicago, and today ranks among the top 10 in many of the franchise pitching categories.

Jim Ferguson highlights Fergie Jenkins’ 5 straight seasons with 20 wins or more in the December 1971 issue of Baseball Digest. Click here to check it out!

The Canadian born righty won just 14 games in 1973, and the Chicago Cubs opted to trade their All-Star during the off-season to the Texas Rangers in return for Vic Harris and Bill Madlock. Jenkins responded to his new surroundings by putting in one the best seasons of his career. Along with winning making 41 starts and completing 29 games, he won 25 and finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting. His second season in Texas slightly less impressive, as he slipped a bit with a 17-18 record with the 79-83 third place Rangers while allowing a then-career high 37 home runs.

Much like his exit with the Cubs, Jenkins was shipped out following a sub par season(by his early standards) to the Boston Red Sox in a multi-player deal. Jenkins spent two rather pedestrian seasons in Boston, winning just 22 games and earning himself another ticket out of town. However, it was back to the Texas Rangers for Fergie Jenkins.

His second tour with Texas,from 1978 to 1981, was a resurgence for the three time All-Star as he won 51 games including 18 in 1978. While a drug bust in 1980 may have been a contributing factor to his departure in 1981, his overall play had begun to decline by 1979 when his Earned Run Average crept over 4.00 and he allowed a career high 40 home runs. He was granted free agency for the first time in his career following the 1981 season, in which he made just 16 starts and won just five games.

Like his return to Texas, Ferguson Jenkins learned you can go home, when he signed with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1982 season. Though his glory days were long behind him, the future Hall of Famer notched 14 wins for a 5th place Cubs team with a 73-89 record. He logged one more year with the Cubs before retiring from Major League Baseball following the 1983 season. In 19 seasons, Jenkins won 284 games to go along with 3,192 strikeouts and a career 3.34 ERA.

Following retirement, Jenkins pitched two seasons as a member of the London Majors, of the Canadian Intercounty Baseball League. He was first recognized for his career achievements with induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987, and then in 1991 with induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the first Canadian inductee. He has signed been inducted into the Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame and has had his number retired by the Chicago Cubs in honor of his accomplishments as well as those by Greg Maddux, who also wore #31 with the team.

Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Larry Doby, born on December 13 1923, was the second player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, and the first in the American League. He slugged 253 home runs, twice leading the AL, and spent much of his career with the Cleveland Indians. His professional career began with the Negro League Newark Bears!

Dale Berra, born in 1956, the son of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, logged more time in the major leagues than any other son of a Hall of Famer. He spent much of his 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, including the 1979 World Champion team. He also played with the New York Yankees during his father’s tenure as manager!

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