Why Jenkins might be last Cubs pitcher with Wrigley statue originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago:
The wind blew strong across his face, forcing Fergie Jenkins to step off more than once.
“I wish the wind would stop,” the Cubs’ Hall of Famer said Friday, pressing his notes to the top of the dais to keep them from fluttering and interrupting his speech again – his bronzed likeness towering over his left shoulder.
“The wind’s blowing out to right field. Watch out, boys. ”
He laughed and continued his speech, only to be interrupted again when the pages were caught by another gust.
“Come on, wind, relax,” he said smiling.
The wind continued to play hell with the Cubs and the pitchers they used in the game on this day – seven wind-aided home runs hit by the Diamondbacks off Opening Day starter Kyle Hendricks and three relievers in Friday’s 10-6 loss.
But a few ruffled pages during a speech on the day the Cubs’ unveiled his statue outside the ballpark at Gallagher Way might have been as aggravating as the wind at Wrigley Field ever got for Jenkins – just another part of the Fergie Legend, according to former teammate Billy Williams.
“Fergie did not worry about the wind,” Williams, the Hall of Fame slugger, said. “He said that on the stage, but he did not worry about the wind. “If the wind was blowing at him, it was in his favor, because he had a good slider, and he knew that ball moved a lot.”
A pitcher who has the advantage at Wrigley with the wind blowing out?
Somebody get this man a statue!
“I thought Fergie deserved this a long time ago,” Williams said. “But better late than never.”
With a collection of former Cubs stars in attendance, including Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Andre Dawson and Kerry Wood, the Cubs unveiled the long-anticipated statue of the only pitcher in club history honored – the new bronzed image now situated in what amounts to a monument park next to the grassy field of Gallagher Way.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO:
Ron Santo on the far right, with Williams next to him, Ernie Banks to the left of Williams and then Jenkins next to his old roommate, Banks.
“I can look down from my office, and it’s really cool to see all those,” said team president Jed Hoyer, “that Mount Rushmore of Wrigley right below me.”
An additional pedestal conspicuously sits to the left of Jenkins’ image, awaiting the next bronzed Cubs legend, presumably Sandberg.
Maybe Sammy Sosa gets one someday – maybe after the Cubs let him back in the building. Someday.
But will there ever be a second statue of a Cubs pitcher?
Greg Maddux made most of his Hall of Fame career with the Braves after the Cubs famously, foolishly let him walk as a free agent. Wood had the talent and dominance but not necessarily the longevity. Jon Lester? He had the championship but had two with Boston, where he was almost identically successful (look it up).
“Pitchers? I do not know, ”Williams said. “I do not know. You have to pitch a long time to win a lot of ballgames. …
“If Woody had been healthy, he had that perfect game when he struck out all those people: [the 1998 Astros gem]. But I would like to see him stay in the game, pitch a little longer. You never know. But big Smitty, he might get some: [consideration]. ”
The very question, if not the challenge of finding candidates to size up alongside the statue – and stature – of Jenkins, speaks to how hard it is to find reasonable comparisons for what he accomplished in his career.
And only part of that is about how much the game has changed and how much differently pitchers are used today compared to the last time he threw a pitch, in 1983.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes said during Friday’s ceremony. “Fergie Jenkins is the greatest pitcher in the long and legendary history of the Chicago Cubs.”
Jumping off the stat page, of course, is the career total of complete games: 267.
That’s just 10 fewer than the total for all Cubs pitchers who have taken the mound since. It’s basically 10 times the totals of the top three active leaders: Adam Wainwright (27), Justin Verlander (26) and Clayton Kershaw (25).
Hell, these days you can pitch a perfect game and not get a complete game. Ask Kershaw.
But the man who won 20 games or more six consecutive seasons for the Cubs when that mattered because of all the complete games and decisions was also a giant among his peers, including some of the Giants like Juan Marichal.
Jenkins, who struck out 3,192 before striking out was cool and pitched 4,500 innings, had 23 more complete games than Marichal, and 12 more than Cardinals’ legend Bob Gibson, 45 more than Nolan Ryan, 100 more than Don Drysdale.
“Fergie would go out there every four days,” Williams said. “Now you’ve got pitchers going out there every five days. Or six. Now you give up three runs in six or seven innings, and that’s a… ”
“That’s a quality start!”
Of course, it might seem easy to dismiss Williams ‘observations as glory-days romanticism, and there certainly is a lot of romance involved in looking back at baseball days gone by and the Cubs’ storied 1969 core in particular.
But whether you want to take his word for it or Hughes’, it seems clear there won’t be another Fergie Jenkins around here again. Maybe not even another statue of a pitcher.
“I am humbled,” said Jenkins, who attributed good nutritional advice from his chef father and genetics to his durability (“I never had a sore arm”).
“I stand here a proud man but also humble.”
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