Shaping the Rangers #16: Fergie Jenkins

Lone Star Dugout continues its look at the 20 biggest transactions in Texas Rangers history. This time, it's a look at the 1973 deal that brought future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins to the Rangers for the first time.

October 25, 1973: Rangers acquire Ferguson Jenkins from the Chicago Cubs for Bill Madlock and Vic Harris.

It should be no hidden secret that Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins made a name for himself as one of the most dominating pitchers through the late 1960's and 1970's.

A quick glance at his numbers tells you more of the same: In his career, the Ontario native led the league in wins twice, complete games nine times, and his streak of six straight seasons with 20 or more wins (1967-1972) remains the longest streak in the major leagues since Warren Spahn performed the feat between 1956 and 1961.

Jenkins, along with Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, and Pedro Martinez are also the only major league pitchers to ever record more than 3,000 strikeouts with fewer than 1,000 walks. The righty, who was always known as a master of control, never walked more than 83 hitters in a season.

As a 23-year-old ace with the Chicago Cubs, "Fergie" made it to his first All-Star Game in 1967, his second year in the major leagues. That year, Jenkins owned a 2.80 ERA at the break, and was a young master at getting ahead in the count his fastball and putting away the opposition with a deadly accurate slider.

On that night, the 6-foot-5 right-hander proceeded to strike out six of the most feared hitters in the American League. Over the span of his three innings of work, Jenkins sat down Jim Fregosi, Tony Conigliaro, and Tony Oliva, along with future Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew, and Harmon Killebrew all were rendered helpless by the right-hander's pitching prowess.

But when Ferguson Jenkins arrived in Texas in the early 1970's, the hopes were it would mark the beginning of the Rangers' steps towards respectability. Instead, it ended up bringing the team plenty of results with little to show for it.

The first of his two ventures into Arlington came in the fall of 1973 following a 57-105 campaign that saw the Rangers finish a dismal 37 games behind front-running Oakland in the American League West.

It was only their third season in existence, and the ballclub was already in the midst of some extremely trying times – thanks in part to widely ridiculed and chastised owner Brad Corbett. The former industrial manufacturing plant tycoon was often criticized for his trades that involved mortgaging the future of the franchise away for veteran players, often with little success to show for it.

Such was the case with the Ferguson Jenkins trade that saw the Rangers send infielder Bill Madlock and utility player Vic Harris to the National League in exchange for his services. Harris spent most of his time on the bench for five different teams before hanging up the spikes after eight years in the game. Madlock, on the other hand, finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1974, made three All-Star teams, and constantly was included on the ballot for Most Valuable Player considerations.

When his time in Texas was over, the deal would end up looking like a steep price was paid for a pitcher who lasted only two seasons. But immediately following his first start in a Rangers uniform, nobody seemed too concerned with that.

The 1974 season opened with the World Champion Oakland Athletics in town for a weekend series against the Rangers. Jenkins, the number two man in the Rangers' rotation, got the call in the second game of the season and looked every bit as outstanding as the hurler who had set Chicago afire in his previous eight years. Jenkins held the A's bats helpless as he threw a complete game one-hitter, striking out 10 while walking just one.

The righty would go on to win 25 games for the Rangers in 1974, finish fifth in the MVP voting and ended his season just two first place votes behind Catfish Hunter for the Cy Young Award.

Although it would be his last season to reach the 20 win plateau, Jenkins continued to pitch effectively with the Rangers the following season. Even though he finished with a below .500 record, Jenkins compiled a 3.93 earned run average in 270 innings of work.

But following another disappointing season for the Rangers in 1975, Jenkins found himself dealt away again, this time to the Boston Red Sox. The returns weren't much: An outfielder who would win a Gold Glove later in his career named Juan Beniquez and two undistinguished pitchers in Steve Barr and Craig Skok. But as lopsided as the deal may have seemed, it didn't mark the end of the pitchers' time in Texas.

Jenkins joined a Red Sox team in 1976 that had come within one game of a world title the previous season. But the righty wasn't able to duplicate some of the numbers he'd posted earlier in his career. While Jenkins's earned run average remained at a commendable level (3.27 in 1976 and 3.68 in 1977), the winning ways that were on display while Jenkins was a member of the Cubs and Rangers slowed considerably.

The high expectations that had followed Jenkins to Boston had faltered in 1977, and late in the year former manager Don Zimmer finally decided he'd had enough with the underperformances of the seven time 20-game winner. Zimmer banished Jenkins to the bullpen in August, but on September 18 in Baltimore, the pitcher supposedly fell asleep in the bullpen and had to be woken up by a teammate. The Red Sox manager was livid, and Jenkins never again pitched in a Boston uniform.

By the end of the year, Jenkins was headed back to Texas, but the scarred relationship with his previous team combined with his sudden lack of fire on the pitching mound resulted in yet another lackluster trade. The deal, which took place on December 14, involved Jenkins returning to the Rangers in exchange for pitcher John Poloni and cash considerations. The trade component had appeared in just two games for the Rangers during the previous season, picking up one win. He would never appear in a game for the Red Sox.

Jenkins endured a resurgence of sorts in Arlington and partially regained his form, picking up 18 victories. But not everything was coming up roses for the Rangers. In his first year back with Texas, Jenkins's earned run average balloon to over four runs a game, the highest its ever been at any point in his career.

Like most control pitchers, Jenkins was also prone to giving up the longball; his 484 home runs allowed are the second most in history. The highest total he allowed in a season, 40, also occurred during his second time around in Texas.

Jenkins would return to the Cubs following the 1981 season where he would play two more years before retiring in 1983 at the age of 40. He finished his career with 284 victories, struck out 200+ batters in each of his 20-win seasons, logged more than 300 innings five times, and currently sits 12th on the all-time strikeout list with 3,192.

Without question, Jenkins's career made him a fine Hall of Fame candidate, but an arrest for drug possession in Toronto in 1980 made his election problematic. In 1991, Jenkins was elected to the Hall of Fame by one of the closest margins in Cooperstown history.

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