There was a time when it appeared Ferguson Jenkins was headed for either the National Hockey League (NHL) or the National Basketball Association (NBA).
He was a key member of his high school basketball city championship side and a strong defenseman on his junior “B” hockey team.
Jenkins’ Barbados-born father, an amateur fighter and semi-pro ball player, bought a pair of skates for his son when he was just four years old.
“The opportunity to play sport, I thought, was going to be in a different sphere,” Jenkins acknowledged last week after the City of Toronto unveiled a poster of the only Canadian Cy Young winner and Baseball Hall of Famer in Cooperstown. “I thought it was going to be in hockey because I loved that sport. But it didn’t turn out that way.”
Chicago Cubs minor leaguer and then Philadelphia Phillies scout Gene Dziadura, who succumbed to a heart attack last November in Chatham, spotted Jenkins pitching in a local league match.
The lanky athlete signed with the Phillies after graduating from high school and went on to play 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Phillies, the Cubs, the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox.
“I proved to my parents after a while that baseball was the right sport for me because my physical attributes fitted the game,” said Jenkins, a three-time All-Star and the 1974 Canadian Athlete of the Year who posted a 284-226 record.
Jenkins said he was proud to be recognized by the city with the poster.
“I had a chance to play against the Toronto Blue Jays when I was in the American League and I enjoyed the opportunity,” he said.
Jenkins spent eight seasons in the American League with the Red Sox and the Rangers and pitched a complete game three-hitter in his first appearance against the Jays in a 9-0 Rangers victory in April 1977.
The Fergie Jenkins poster is the 10th in a series that celebrates the accomplishments of African-Canadians who have distinguished themselves in various sports. The City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry & Recreation division, in consultation with the community, creates the 20 x 30 poster.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and city administrator Ken Jeffers helped Jenkins unveil the poster.
“Frankly, I am a little bit surprised that it has taken this long to celebrate baseball’s excellence with these posters,” said Holyday. “Baseball is a sport that celebrates diversity as we do in this city and we are honoured to have Fergie Jenkins here with us today to celebrate Black History Month. He was a great baseball player and we are delighted to have him here today.”
The poster is available for purchase by calling (416) 392-0811 or e-mailing email@example.com.