Gonzales: 'Humbled' Jenkins looking forward to statue unveiling at Wrigley Field

Fergie Jenkins embraces his distinction as one of only two Canadian-born players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

And Jenkins treasures his membership in the Black Aces, a group of 15 Black pitchers who have won at last 20 games in a season.

But Friday, Jenkins belongs exclusively to the Cubs community.

It's been 39 years since Jenkins threw his last pitch for the Cubs, but his contributions will be recognized when he's honored with a statue unveiling ceremony at Gallagher Way nearly two hours prior to the Cubs' game against the Diamondbacks.

Jenkins, who earned 167 of his 284 wins with the Cubs during a golden era for pitchers, will be highlighted as part of a newly installed “Statue Row” featuring fellow Hall of Famers and former teammates Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo.

“You play the game and you hope when your career is over, people remember you,” Jenkins said Monday. “They honored me in 2009 when they retired my No. 31, along with (Greg) Maddux. Now a statue.

“I'm even more humbled.”

The year-round popularity of Gallagher Way, located outside the third base side of Wrigley Field, fueled plans to move the players' statues to one location.

“These are the heroes who grew the brand,” Crane Kenney, Cubs President of Business Operations, said last month.

Interactive displays will allow fans to read information on each star from their cellphones.

“It's going to be very cool,” Kenney said.

In this era of multiple relievers and rarely allowing starters to face batters for the third time in the order, Jenkins' accomplishments are breathtaking — even in a generation where the likes of Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Juan Marichal also dominated.

Jenkins, 79, threw at least 20 complete games in six consecutive seasons with the Cubs (1967-72), while leading the league in complete games (30) and innings (325) in winning the 1971 National League Cy Young Award.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Jenkins played a couple offseasons for the Harlem Globetrotters, so it's not surprising that endurance played an instrumental role in his success.

“I enjoyed playing the game, but I worked hard to stay in shape,” Jenkins said. “And I was playing for a great manager in Leo Durocher. Leo thought if the game was still going in our favor, I stayed in the game. He'd sometimes go by me in the seventh inning and say, 'Hey, big fella. It's your game, win or lose. Keep it going.'

“That's a confidence factor that the manager tells you, 'it's your game. Keep going and pitch and win.' I'm pretty proud to have played for him almost eight years. It was fun.”

Jenkins gushed over Chairman Tom Ricketts' vision and development of the Wrigleyville area, in which his ceremony will be conducted where a doughnut shop and car wash once resided.

“It's really a great place to visit and watch a game,” Jenkins said.

The ceremony will include a personal touch, as George Sims, the town crier of Jenkins' hometown of Chatham, Ontario, will introduce Jenkins.

“He's done it for 50 years,” said Jenkins, who was joined last January by Larry Walker as the only Canadians in the HOF. “He's probably as old as I am.”

Jenkins modeled recently in a sweatshirt commemorating the Black Aces, which became popularized by a book of the same title written by Mudcat Grant and started with three-time 20-game winner Don Newcombe (1951, 55-56).

Only Gibson (1965-66, 68-70) comes close to Jenkins' 20-game win seasons.

“It's an honor to have that distinction,” Jenkins said of his membership.

The statue represents a personal touch for Jenkins, who recognizes that some of his fellow competitors, like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal of the Giants, Gibson with the Cardinals, and Tom Seaver of the Mets, were honored with personal sculptures.

“I'm pretty proud of the fact I played in that era and with and against so many good players,” Jenkins said. “And now to have a statue up, I'm pretty humbled.”

Fergie Jenkins delivers in a game against the Cincinnati Reds May 20, 1983 at Wrigley Field. Jenkins struck out five to give him a career total of 3,120, putting him in sixth place on the all-time list ahead of Bob Gibson, who had 3,117. Associated Press
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