View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



August 2009




Written by , Posted in Reviews

The book is titled: “Fergie – My Life From The Cubs To Cooperstown”. It’s a new book, published in 2009, and it features a photo of Ferguson Jenkins in a Cubs uniform on the front cover.

I showed the book to my dad (The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan) and asked him what he thought of Ferguson Jenkins. He didn’t hesitate a bit, saying “He was the best pitcher they ever had!”

Although I knew of Fergie Jenkins’ pitching with the Cubs in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I had never heard him speak until earlier this year. The Cubs were retiring jersey #31, which had been worn by Fergie and by Greg Maddux, and Fergie joined Len and Bob in the booth. He struck me as being a very good speaker, intelligent, humble and level headed.

Now let me tell you about the book.

I am a little unclear about who is the author of this book. The front cover proclaims “Fergie Jenkins with Lew Freedman”. The title page says “Ferguson Jenkins with Lew Freedman”. The Library Of Congress cataloguing page lists “Ferguson Jenkins” as the copyright holder, and the inside front jacket cover calls this a “new autobiography”. But on page 199 under the heading “About the Author” only Lew Freedman is mentioned.

In a similar vein, the press release says “By Fergie Jenkins with Lew Freedman” but near the bottom of the same page below the underlined “About the Author” heading, only Lew Freedman is mentioned.

So, like I said, I don’t know who wrote the book. But I liked it.

Fergie describes himself as “not a Rhodes Scholar….I loved dogs….Later in life I raised hunting dogs.”

Although the subtitle of this book is “From The Cubs To Cooperstown”, it could just as easily read: “From Chatham, Canada to Cooperstown”. Fergie was born in Chatham, Ontario (near Detroit) and repeatedly points out that he is a Canadian citizen and will remain so.

Fergie mentions that when his mother died, he ”did not lose a mother, I lost a friend, a counselor, a teacher, a person who was there whenever I needed her”.

We learn that as a boy collecting baseball cards, his “favorite card was of Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs. I never dreamed one day I would be Ernie Banks’s roommate on the road.”

– “Every time I did something well in sports and every time I moved up in baseball to another classification and began playing well in the majors, my dad told me he was proud of me. Not every kid is lucky enough to have parents who tell them that even once, never mind all of the time.”

Fergie was 18 years old when he signed with the Phillies in 1962, but, as a Canadian citizen, the war and the draft in the ‘60s did not affect him directly. His dad told him: “Ferguson, if this is the life you want to live, go ahead and do it. Prove to yourself you are worth your salt.”

Fergie talks about how pitching has become more specialized with “a closer to end the game, a setup man in the eighth inning, a middle reliever, a long reliever.”
– “They call pitching six innings and giving up three runs or less a ‘quality start’. Well, that’s a 4.50 earned-run average. If a starting pitcher had a record like that when I was pitching, he would have been either benched or sent back to the minors.”

Fergie tells of the racial tensions on the Cubs during the 1968 season, specifically recalling an incident between Lou Johnson and Randy Hundley.

We learn about the “bubble gum incident”, which was a big deal on a team owned by P.K. Wrigley.

During the same 1968 season, when the Cubs’ bats were not supporting Fergie in the manner to which he wished to be supported, he staged a “sacrifice to the gods” – the ceremonial burning of the bats.

Among other stories, Fergie talks about his experiences touring and playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, he gives us a sober analysis of the 1969 season, and elaborates upon the differences between a brushback (“purpose pitch”) and a beanball.

The book contains analyses of numerous Cubs teammates with inside stories.

Fergie discusses the working relationship of pitchers and catchers, with inside stories.

He talks about his time in Texas and in Boston. He speaks with reverence about Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. And he’s impressed with the depth of baseball knowledge of the fans in both of these parks.

Fergie talks about being busted for drugs by Canadian customs: “They found some articles in my suitcase in 1980”. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time….”

We learn of his personal tragedies, losing a number of people close to him in a very short period of time.

With regard to working his way up from the minors, Fergie observes: “I didn’t get promoted because I struck guys out. I got promoted because I didn’t walk guys.”

Ferguson Jenkins is a Hall of Famer (the 1st and so far the only Canadian member of the HOF), and a Cy Young Award winner who struck out more that 3,000 hitters during his career.

This book chronicles Fergie’s life in his own words and is a very good read. It is a must read for all Cubs fans. My dad and I recommend it very highly.

  • Doc Raker

    I enjoyed this book also. What tragedy’s he has endured in his personal life. I enjoyed the insight of how baseball was when he was coming up through the minors.

    One season when he won 20 games he lost 5 games 1-0, talk about lack of support.

    I met Fergie and Randy’s camp and found him to be a class act. Fergie, Willie Wilson, Sherm, I and some others went and saw Carmen Fanzone play in a Jazz band during camp. Good time, Carmen’s band was tight, layed down some nice grooves, as they say.

  • lizzie

    The other day during a Cubs rain delay they showed a fairly in-depth thing about that camp, got me to wondering if anyone they showed was one of you guys!

  • lizzie

    P.S. Thanks for another great review, cubbiedude!

  • Doc Raker

    I wasn’t there this past year. Seymour was but I didn’t see him although I didn’t see the entire show. Seymour was at the Jazz outing also. A friend of ours was on, John Salzeider, but he hasn’t posted here.

    The camp is definetly a great week. Better than meeting the pros is meeting a bunch of other Cub fans and making such good friends with them. Many great stories come out of camp. I highly recommend attending at least once in your lifetime, and soon since the 69 guys are getting on. It won’t be the same when the 69 guys go to the Wrigley Field in the sky.

  • Seymour Butts

    Was it the half hour by Bob Vorwald? He came last year,but the closest I got to on camera was a botched attempt to give Joe Pepitone a shaving cream pie in the face while sitting for his interview. Bob stopped the camera and nixed it. Could have been classic.
    If any of you guys are interested in going, let me know. I have already signed up, but usually you can make your final decision fairly late, especially if the Cubs tank it. Last year was a little light in the turn out (still right at 100 campers) due to the economy. Female campers have a seperate locker room (darn the luck) and is is the same facility the Cubs use a week later.