Fergie Jenkins Interview

DES MOINES – Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins spent three and a half years in the Philadelphia Phillies organization before he was sent up to the major leagues. His best seasons came in Chicago, where he played from 1966-73 before closing out his 19-year major-league career with the Cubs in 1983.

Jenkins, known in most circles as "Fergie," is 12th on the active all-time strikeout list with 3,192 Ks. His durability led to 267 complete games, and his consistency led to seven 20-win seasons, 49 shutouts and a career ERA of 3.34.

This past week here, Jenkins signed autographs during three Iowa Cubs home games with all proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). During that time, InsideTheIvy.com sat down with Jenkins.

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On pitcher Rich Hill and other Iowa players:

JENKINS: All these young men are trying to make it to the big leagues, and the only way to make it is to put up big numbers here to get noticed so that they take them up to the major league team. [Felix] Pie has spent the last couple seasons trying to get there; [Sean] Gallagher just left here and he is up at the big leagues now. And that's what it's all about. You work hard at Triple-A to secure a job in the major leagues. Rich Hill, it's the same way. Rich Hill and Sean Marshall are here. They're trying to get back to the big leagues.

Recalling his time in the minor leagues:

JENKINS: I learned a lot in the minor leagues, and also I went to winter ball a couple times in Puerto Rico. The skill level is as high as you can get without being in the big leagues. So what you have to do is learn as much (as possible) so that you don't have to ever go back. I got to the big leagues and never had to go back.

On this year's Cubs team:

JENKINS: I've seen quite a few games this year. They're playing really good baseball right now. They got off to a great start. [Aramis] Ramirez is hitting the ball well, along with [Kosuke] Fukudome and [Derrek] Lee. I just think that they have a ballclub that is probably going to win the division if they keep playing well.

They proved they were the team to beat last season and they ended up winning the division, but they didn't play as well in the playoffs. I was out there in Arizona when Arizona swept them. It was really too bad, but I don't think that's going to happen (again). They've got a better pitching staff. If they stay healthy, they've got a good shot at it.

Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins recently sold autographed memorabilia at Principal Park in Des Moines to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Among the items were autographed seats from Wrigley Field (shown here), which sold for $125. (STAFF PHOTO/LUKE PLANSKY)

On the team's early-season success:

JENKINS: It's early ... Once you've played 115 or 120 games, you can really see who has the strongest team in the division.

On the play and popularity of Fukudome:

JENKINS: I think he's proven that he can play in the major leagues. He started off really hot. I think he's still hitting .300, and he's a good defensive player, especially in right field. I think that's what they needed, a good defensive right fielder, and if he can get those hits, that's a big plus for them.

On the expectations to break the 100-year championship drought:

JENKINS: Well, I think the Cubs have a lot to prove, and these young men could be the ones to do it. I know the people of Chicago would like them to win, because they haven't been there. The White Sox have won once, the Red Sox have come back and they've won twice. So a lot of people think it's the Cubs' opportunity, but they have to prove it. So that's their test, to go out and do it.

On the Cubs organization as a whole:

JENKINS: They have a great manager. Lou Pinella is pretty sharp. They've got a good front office. I just think that they have to go out there and prove it day after day to win that division. It's going to take hard work. Like I said, the season is not even half over. They've got a lot of games to play, and the only way that they're going to win that division is if they play good baseball.

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