- December 13, 1942
- 6' 5"
- 205 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-10-1965 with PHI
- Allstar Selections:
- 1971 CY, 1971 TSN
- Hall of Fame:
A man with two last names, Canadian-born Jenkins often had a single letter attached next to his line in the box score – “W”. Jenkins won 284 times in his 19-year career, spent mostly with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. He won twenty games six straight years, and seven times overall. Unfortunately, he never played on a first place team, and thus was denied the limelight of the post-season. A drug-bust in 1980 marred Jenkins image, but 11 years later he was voted into the Hall of Fame.
Jenkins had several unfortunate runs of bad luck that cost him notoriety. He lost thirteen games by the score of 1-0, despite going the distance for the loss. In addition, he suffered 45 shutout losses, the sixth highest total in history. His teams (Phillies, Cubs, Rangers, and Red Sox) were basically mediocre - they posted an almost exact .500 record in games Jenkins didn’t get a decision. In his games, they were .557. In 1969, his Cubs blew a lead and lost the division title to the Mets. In 1976 he joined Boston the season after they played in the World Series. With the Rangers he was never able to get to the post-season, due to poor management and waste of talent. In 1983 he retired with the Cubs, and the next season they finished first.
Jenkins was born east of Detroit – in Canada. He grew up playing hockey and wasn’t a pitcher until a teammate hurt his arm and Jenkins was forced onto the mound. In June, 1962 he was signed to his first pro contract, by the Phillies. In four seasons in the minors, Fergie went 43-26, and was finally given a shot in September of ’65 with Philadelphia.
He began the ’66 season in the Phils bullpen, but soon was packaged in a deal with the Cubs. The Phillies felt they needed veteran pitching to push them over the top. They traded Jenkins, Adolpho Phillips, and John Herrnstein to Chicago for pitchers Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. Both pitchers better years were behind them – combined they won 47 games for the Phillies in three seasons. Jenkins would win 282 games for the Cubs and others. It was one of the worst trades in baseball history.
In his first game with the Cubs, Jenkins slugged a home run and won in relief. He was inserted in the rotation later in the year, winning six games. In 1967 he won twenty games for the first time. He followed with 20, 21, 22, 24, and 20 wins the next five years, through 1972. In 1971 he earned the Cy Young award (24-13, 2.77, 263 K’s). His string of 20-win seasons ended in 1973 (14-16), and the Cubs dealt him to the Rangers for young Bill Madlock. With Texas in ’74, Jenkins won a career-high 25 games and was voted the Comeback Player of the Year. In his first start with Texas, he blanked their rival Oakland A’s, 2-0, on one hit.
After winning 17 games for the Rangers in 1975, he was again traded, this time to defending AL champ Boston. He was never at home with the Sox, and struggled to a 22-21 record in two seasons. Once again he was shipped to Texas, where he anchored a staff that included fellow castoffs Jon Matlack, Doyle Alexander, and Gaylord Perry. Jenkins went 51-42 in his four-season, second-stint with Texas. The lowlight of the time with Texas comes on August 25, 1980, in Toronto, when Jenkins is arrested for possession of cocaine, at Exhibition Stadium. The ensuing publicity and brief trial cause a stir in Canada, where Jenkins is a hero. Finally, a sympathetic judge waves a guily verdict and exonerates Jenkins. MLB suspends Jenkins in September, but that ruling is also overturned after an arbitrator dismisses the claim.
After the ’81 season, Jenkins was a free agent and few teams showed interest. In a homecoming story, the Cubs took a chance on the 38-year old right-hander, signing their old ace. In ’82 he showed some flashes of his old success, winning 14 games and posting a 3.15 ERA. He finished up in 1983, struggling and ending up in the Cubs bullpen.
His career was marked by his incredible durability and control. He struck out more than 3,000 batters and is the only man to do so while also allowing less than 1,000 walks. In 1991 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
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