Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins' top 10 moments

October 13th, 2023

A version of this story originally ran in December 2021.

Tom Seaver. Bob Gibson. Jim Bunning. Gaylord Perry. Jim Maloney. Larry Dierker. Phil Niekro.

They were among the starting pitchers that Ferguson "Fergie" Jenkins routinely faced when he was the Chicago Cubs’ ace right-hander in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. This group consisted of fellow staff aces and included not only All-Stars, but also future Hall of Famers. As his streak of six consecutive 20-win seasons (1967-72) indicates, Jenkins beat these guys often and won frequently enough to earn a hallowed spot in Cooperstown.

Here’s a look at 10 of the top career moments and achievements for Jenkins, who is celebrating his birthday today.

1) A select group
May 25, 1982

Jenkins, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Max Scherzer, Curt Schilling and Justin Verlander are the only pitchers to amass 3,000 or more strikeouts while walking fewer than 1,000 batters. Jenkins’ 3,000th strikeout victim was Garry Templeton on May 25, 1982, at San Diego. At the time, Jenkins stood alone in that exclusive group before later being joined by the other five pitchers.

2) Strike-thrower

Command was behind Jenkins’ excellence. He averaged fewer than two walks per nine innings in every year but one from 1968-78 (2.1 in ‘69). He led his league five times in this category; three times he paced the entire Majors.

3) What were they thinking?
April 21, 1966

Signed by famed Phillies scout Tony Lucadello in 1962, Jenkins appeared in 105 Minor League games, including 61 starts, before making his big league debut in ’65 as a reliever. Barely a year passed before the Phillies dealt Jenkins to the Cubs, along with outfield prospect Adolfo Phillips and utility man John Herrnstein, in exchange for veteran starters Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. It was among the worst moves the Phillies ever made. Jenkins posted a 284-226 record in 19 seasons, including a 167-132 mark over 10 years with the Cubs. In contrast, Jackson finished 41-45 with a 2.95 ERA in three seasons with Philadelphia; Buhl went 6-8 that year and was essentially done as a big leaguer.

4) Cy Young buildup begins

Jenkins finished 20-13 with a 2.80 ERA in 38 starts in 1967, his first full year as a Cub. He tossed a Major League-high 20 complete games, recorded his first of six consecutive 20-win seasons and tied Philadelphia’s Jim Bunning for second place in the National League Cy Young Award balloting behind San Francisco’s Mike McCormick.

5) Admirable All-Star
July 11, 1967

Because Jenkins never appeared in the postseason, he is said to have considered this outing among his most significant performances. Though he yielded the American League’s lone run (a solo homer by Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson), Jenkins struck out an impressive array of six hitters in three innings: Mickey Mantle, Jim Fregosi, Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Conigliaro and Rod Carew.

6) At the pinnacle

Jenkins won the 1971 NL Cy Young Award, though Mets ace Tom Seaver outperformed him in multiple categories. Jenkins finished 24-13 to Seaver’s 20-10, topped the Majors with 30 complete games and amassed an NL-high 325 innings. Seaver led the Majors in ERA (1.76), strikeouts per nine innings (9.1) and WHIP (0.946). His 289 strikeouts led the NL.

7) Batting bonus

Jenkins helped himself at the plate during that 1971 campaign, batting .243 with six home runs and 20 RBIs. His power fueled a .478 slugging percentage.

8) Sitting tall in the saddle

Traded to the Rangers before the 1974 season, Jenkins established a personal best for wins by finishing 25-12 that year. He also threw a big league-high 29 complete games. Jenkins received 10 first-place votes in the AL Cy Young balloting, but finished second to Oakland’s Catfish Hunter, who garnered 12 first-place votes while also finishing 25-12. Hunter had a better ERA (2.49 to Jenkins' 2.82), though Jenkins had a significant edge in strikeouts (225 to Hunter's 143).

9) As long as the bases are empty

Jenkins’ tendency to live in the strike zone left him vulnerable to the long ball. He led his league in home runs allowed seven times from 1967-79. Of the 484 career homers he allowed, 310 (64 percent) came with nobody on base.

10) Pioneer from the North
Dec. 13, 1942

Born on the above date in Chatham, Ontario, Jenkins was baseball’s first Canadian All-Star selection and the nation’s first Hall of Famer. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1991 in his third year on the ballot.