NEW YORK -- Thanksgiving means a lot to Baseball Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins. One can hear the glee in his voice. He has a lot to tell, and it's not just about counting his blessings from his days on the baseball field. He loves talking about growing up in Chatham, Canada.
When asked about his Thanksgiving memories, the first thing that comes up is having dinner with his parents -- Ferguson Sr. and Delores. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated in October, but the Jenkins family would celebrate the holiday in November -- just like in the United States. The fun part was that Ferguson Sr. was a chef and, man, could he burn. He was a cook for more than 60 years.
“The house was surrounded by turkey, all the dressing, mashed potatoes and two or three pies -- lemon meringue, apple and pumpkin. That's what my dad did,” Jenkins said via telephone. “He cooked in a real small kitchen for five people, all the time, every Thanksgiving.
“You are 10-11 years old and you are watching your dad cook in the kitchen. No joke. It was a small Westinghouse stove. Everything was served hot. When it came time to eat, it was around 3 o’clock in the afternoon.”
Jenkins said one of his best Thanksgiving memories is when his mother’s two sisters, Laura Bell and Donna, would show up with their children for the holidays. Sometimes, Jenkins would go to Michigan to see them, and what a time he would have.
"You thank the Lord for certain things and you count your blessings,” Jenkins said. “Everybody is … healthy and having that celebration. My mother’s sister, Donna, had an outstanding family. It was also good to see them in Michigan.”
Jenkins is a person who can count his blessings in a big way. He played Major League Baseball from 1965-1983, mostly with the Cubs, and was one of the best pitchers to play the game. Jenkins was a three-time All-Star, winning 20 games seven times. He won his only Cy Young Award in 1971 before he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
Jenkins will never forget the people he met along the way, from roommates Ernie Banks in Chicago to Dwight Evans in Boston.
“There were so many players who contributed to make me look good a lot of times in a ballgame,'' Jenkins said. “I won the Cy Young and I won 24 ballgames. I had 39 starts and 30 complete games. You don’t do it alone. The fellowship of all these players made sure I won ballgames.
“I basically played for four organizations. When I look back, your career had a lot of different involvements in people, cities, things like that. So I was very fortunate to have some success with the Rangers, the Red Sox and the Cubs.”
Jenkins is 78 years old and is thankful to be with his fiancée, Kathy. He is also proud of his three daughters and a son from a previous marriage. Jenkins was recently in Chicago and saw his fourth grandchild for the first time.
“So life has been outstanding, believe me,” Jenkins said.