Jenkins' durability has no modern comparison

  • Baseball Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins talks to reporters after the Cubs unveiled a statue honoring the former Cubs pitcher Friday at Wrigley Field.

    Baseball Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins talks to reporters after the Cubs unveiled a statue honoring the former Cubs pitcher Friday at Wrigley Field. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/20/2022 4:59 PM

Looking back over Ferguson Jenkins' accomplishments on the mound is like marveling at Wilt Chamberlain once averaging 50 points and 25 rebounds for a full season.

Jenkins was pitching a different game compared to modern baseball hurlers, with six consecutive seasons of 20 wins from 1967-72; eight seasons with at least 20 complete games and five seasons with more than 300 innings pitched.

 

"I ran a lot, I stayed in shape," Jenkins said after his statue outside Wrigley Field was unveiled before Friday's game. "My dad was a chef. He told me what to eat, what not to eat.

"I tried to understand out there playing, I've got to have stamina. So I kept my body in good shape. Plus I never had a sore arm. I pitched 21 seasons and never had a sore arm. That's probably genetics."

Jenkins said the pose, in mid-delivery, was taken from a Sports Illustrated cover and his image will forever be throwing a changeup.

"It looks like me," he said. "I think it was an afternoon ballgame, it was the 'Game of the Week.' "

Here's a quick rundown of stats that demonstrate they don't make pitchers like Jenkins anymore:

The last pitcher to win 20 games in even two straight seasons was Houston's Roy Oswalt in 2004-05.

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The last pitcher to throw 20 complete games in a season was Fernando Valenzuela in 1986. Since the turn of the century, only one pitcher has posted double-digit complete games. That was Tampa Bay's James Shields with 11 in 2011 (while managed by Joe Maddon).

Since 1953, four pitchers have recorded 30 complete games in a season -- Jenkins in 1971, Catfish Hunter in 1975, Steve Carlton in 1972 and Juan Marichal in 1968.

"You want to do as well as you can," Jenkins said. "If the opportunity to complete a ballgame is there, you do it. (Former Cubs manager) Leo (Durocher) gave me that opportunity and I thank him for that."

The last pitcher to throw 300 innings in a season was Carlton in 1980. Jenkins tossed 325 innings when he won the Cy Young Award in 1971 and peaked at 328 with the Texas Rangers in 1974.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Williams vs. Jenkins recalled

Legendary Cubs slugger Billy Williams had plenty of insight into Ferguson Jenkins' career, including when they used to face each other after leaving the Cubs.

"I hit a home run off him," Williams said. "I told my father and he said, 'You all had that planned.' I said, 'No we didn't.'

"One night Fergie pitched a 2-hitter against the Oakland A's and I got both the hits. And I said, 'If I knew you were going to do that, I would have gave you the 2 hits so you could pitch a no-hitter.' "

The story checks out. On April 22, 1975 in Oakland, Jenkins and Texas beat the A's 2-1, gave up 2 hits and Williams collected both of them, one was a home run.

The starter for Oakland that night was former and future Cub Ken Holtzman. The three-time defending champion A's started a lineup of Bill North, Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Williams at DH, Claudell Washington, Ray Fosse and Phil Garner against the Rangers that night.

Needless to say, Jenkins tossed a complete game. Williams' home run led off the second inning, so there wasn't any no-hit suspense. The announced crowd at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum was 2,607, according to baseball-reference.com.

While speaking to the crowd, Williams gave a reminder of what a great athlete Jenkins was, playing at times for the Harlem Globetrotters in the winter. According to Williams, the Chatham, Ontario, native also skated with the Blackhawks for fun.

Another Ace on hand

One of the other "Black Aces" was on hand for Friday's ceremony. C.C. Sabathia won 21 games for the Yankees in 2010. The Black Aces is the exclusive club of Black pitchers who have won 20 games.

"We just lost J.R. Richard," Jenkins said. "Before that, we lost (Don) Newcombe, we lost (Bob) Gibson. I think there's like seven of us still alive."

Besides Billy Williams, some other former Cubs who attended the ceremony were Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith and Kerry Wood. Jenkins shouted out his first Cubs roommate, outfielder Byron Browne, who was in the crowd.

@McGrawDHSports

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