Ferguson Jenkins Spotlight

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is an interview with baseball legend Ferguson Jenkins from February 2011 that discusses his stamp, a look back at his storied career and the charitable efforts of the Fergie Jenkins Foundation.

During the middle of his Canadian tour, which showcases his newly released postal stamp, baseball legend Ferguson Jenkins returned to a familiar place.

A Chatham native, Jenkins has strong ties to Windsor, Ontario, as his father grew up in the Elliott and Tuscarora Street neighbourhood, and presently he still has many cousins living across Windsor-Essex. Jenkins visit to Windsor to speak at a Black History Luncheon, brought back a lot of memories and familiar faces to the Caboto Club. The event was organized by the Northstar Cultural Community Centre, to recognize his commemorative stamp.

The career accomplishments, for the 68-year-old Jenkins are a part of a very impressive resume that spanned three decades. Some of his notable accolades include being the only pitcher in history to record more than 3,000 strike-outs (3,192), while giving up less than 1,000 walks (997) along with recording 284 victories and being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

Jenkins took the time to discuss his tour across Canada, the goals of his Fergie Jenkins Foundation and reflected on his career in baseball.

STS: How has your tour been going so far and how many stops are you making?

Jenkins: Overall my schedule has been very busy, as I am probably going to do about 25 stops across Canada. I must say one of the nicest things about the tour is everybody acknowledges what Black History Month is all about – that is a big plus. This is particularly important since we are helping a couple of Black Churches in Ontario, with the reconstruction of their buildings, along with an organ and restoration of their pews. One of these churches is in Chatham and the other one is located in St. Catharines.

Fergie Jenkins

STS: Does your foundation work specifically in Canada or do you assist other organizations in the United States?

Jenkins: My foundation’s work is mostly in Canada, but it spans into the United States at times through assistance and partnering with many different charities, such as the Red Cross, Make A Wish Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes and Boys and Girls Clubs to name a few of them.

STS: When did you first find out that your image was going to appear on a stamp?

Jenkins: About six to eight months ago my foundation was first contacted and during this conversation it was mentioned that plans were in the works to print a stamp with my image for Black History Month. A request was made for images of myself in a pitching motion and my Order of Canada medal, along with an overshot of me looking off into the distance.

STS: Did you have much input on the final proof of the stamp?

Jenkins: Not really. Those particular poses were chosen and printing began on the stamps back on my birthday last year, on December 13 (2010.)

STS: How are the students receiving your message, as your tour allows you an opportunity to interact with different schools across Canada?

Jenkins: What I try to do during my discussions with the students is to let them know that through hard work a lot of things can be accomplished. I do my best to stress to them that regardless of your ethnic background – hard work surpasses a lot of it. You have to do the hard work to have success and people will notice that. During these visits, I encourage kids to set their goals high in order to have the opportunity to reach a successful plateau.

STS: Many people in Windsor, Ontario might not know or remember that you ran for the Liberal Party in East Windsor. What year did you run and why did you decide that you wanted to get involved in politics?

Jenkins: I got involved in politics back in 1984-85. I was a parachute candidate for the Liberal Party in the Windsor- Riverside area. My dad was born in Windsor, so I didn’t mind running in this area. It was an interesting venture, as I had to drive in every day from Blenheim, which is about 96 kilometers away. The whole process was eye opening to learn more about what the Canadian government was all about.

STS: Looking back at your career, you pitched a total of 267 complete games and now starting pitchers are relied on to go a much shorter distance. What are your thoughts on this change to baseball?

Jenkins: The game has changed a whole lot. When I broke into the big leagues, there were only nine pitchers on a pitching staff, now there is thirteen or fourteen. Really, everything is totally different now, especially with expansion and having 30 professional teams and so many active players.

STS: Does it surprise you that you are the only Canadian in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?

Jenkins: Well right now that is the case, due to the fact that Larry Walker can’t get enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately that is strictly what it boils down to.

STS: During the early part of your career, did you face a lot of racism or discrimination in the South?

Jenkins: It was a difficult time during the early part of my career, as I had to live with other black players in private homes. Keep in mind, there were only certain places where you could eat and other places that just wouldn’t accept you at all. During my time in Florida, I would describe it as a different place. There were days that you would wonder when things were ever going to change. Then it all happened in the mid-1960s and all of us were very grateful that it did. For a period, it was just really tough with so many restrictions, but with the Bill of Rights being passed and Martin Luther King being so popular it all changed.

STS: Are you currently involved with any Major League Baseball teams these days in any capacity?

Jenkins: Presently I still do some work for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, but more than anything else I am doing work for my foundation.

To learn more about the Ferguson Jenkins Foundation, visit his website.