Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fergie Jenkins: The Prodigal Returns

In 1981, Fergie had the fewest starts and fewest wins since his rookie season of 1966. It looked like his career may be finished. He was a 38 year old free agent, but teams weren't knocking down his door to sign him. Except one.

The Wrigley family sold the Cubs to the Tribune Corporation during the 1981 season and in the off-season, Dallas Green was named the GM. He immediately went to work to revamp the team. Green was looking for a veteran pitcher and turned to Jenkins, who signed a free agent contract. It's interesting that Green went after Jenkins, because he was doing his best to cut any connection the '69 team had with the Cubs. The teams slogan was "Building A New Tradition," and he wanted to forget about the past. Yet the only player from the '69 team that was still active was brought back to Chicago.

He wasn't the same Fergie that we remembered, but it was still nice to see the "real" #31. In 1982 he was 14-15 for a team that won only 73 games. He also recorded his 3000th strikeout that season. But the next year he was pretty much finished, with a 6-9 record and an ERA of 4.30. He did go to camp with the team in the spring of 1984, but was released before the start of the season. He was 16 games short of 300, and supposedly six teams called and were interested in signing him. Jenkins decided to retire instead, saying he only wanted to win #300 in a Cubs uniform.

Topps issued this card for Jenkins in 1984, his final as an active player.

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