Second To None: Fergie & Ryno

May 20, 1982 and June 23, 1984. These were two significant dates in Chicago Cubs history which involved two living members of the Cubs family who are also members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and were both traded to the Cubs by the Philadelphia Phillies very early in their careers. These two guys were Ferguson Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg. The two men had magnificent career stats and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers of  84.2 and 67.9 for players of their eras respectively which lead to them being immortalized outside of  Wrigley Field on Statue Row. So, today’s article will provide a detailed summary of both of their statue dedication ceremonies

Ferguson “Fergie” Arthur Jenkins
(View Entire Ceremony on YouTube curtesy Marquee Sports Network)

On May 20, 2022 Fergie recorded is 3,000th career strike out in an 8-2 win against the San Diego Padres which would be his 150th win as a Cub.

Forty years later approximately ninety seconds into the ceremony Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes said, “Let’s cut right to the chase. Fergie Jenkins is the greatest pitcher in the long and legendary history of the Chicago Cubs. He possessed a rare combination of being a power pitcher with great control.”

Hughes then shared the following stats from Fergie’s career:

  • 20 game winner 6 consecutive years starting in 1967
  • 3 time All-Star
  • Won his first Cy Young Award in 1971 starting 39 games, throwing 30 complete games, and getting 24 wins over 325 innings pitched.

As a what seemed like an afterthought Hughes also shared Fergie’s 1971 stats as a hitter. He hit 6 homers and had 20 runs batted in over 115 at bats. Hughes would also mention how his teammates “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams had been immortalized with statues on statue row previously.

The next person to speak on Jenkins’ dedication day was Tom Ricketts. Ricketts started out saying how 165 innings pitched, 135 strikeouts, and 12 wins is considered a good season by most pitchers in todays game while Fergies’ stats were basically that every year at the the all star break. Ricketts of course would provide further highlights from 1971 when Fergie won his first Cy Young award saying that he recorded 263 strike outs while only giving up 37 walks that season. Ricketts wrapped up his speech saying that Jenkins’ has more complete games than all of todays pitchers combined because, “His mother, Delores, always taught him to finish what he started.”

The Mayor of his home town Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada Darrin Canniff Mayor spoke for a brief time. He opened his brief piece before introducing Billy Williams by saying, “I would have never in my widest dreams thought I’d be speaking in one of the greatest cities in the world helping to honor the greatest Canadian baseball player of all-time.”

Williams would then go on to tell a couple short stories including one about former MLB scout Gene Dziadura encouraging Fergie who was actively playing hockey and basketball in his teenage years to try baseball. Of course, Jenkins did and would eventually sign with the Phillies before making his debut and shortly thereafter being traded to the Cubs.

The other story Williams told before turning the mic over to his teammate was about Leo Durocher telling Fergie at the end of the 1966 season that he’d be in the starting rotation in 1967.

Fergie started out his speech thanking the Cubs organization for the honor and also thanked Tom, Laura and, Todd Ricketts for bringing a ring home by saying, “You brought something to the northside that generations of Cubs owners couldn’t do. A world’s champion to the north side that tells me it won’t be the last.” By doing this he was essentially calling them world champion’s as owners.

He would go on to tell a story about Leo Durocher calling Frank Sinatra down to the dugout for two innings during a spring training game to manage the team. He would also tell a story about his manager  Billy Martin questioning if he still had the ability to be a good starting pitcher. He wrapped that story up quoting himself responding to Martin, “Skip, you give me that ball every fourth day I’ll win you some ball games.” Fergie would go on to become the 1974 comeback player of the year. Following that story he wrapped up by thanking his family and friends as well as fans.

Ryne “Ryno” Sandberg
(View Sanberg’s speech on YouTube curtesy NBC Sports Chicago)

I was not at the ceremony for Fergie two years ago. However, on the 40th anniversary of The Ryno Game this past Sunday I was at Ryno’s ceremony. Unfortunately, I do not have too many quotes to share from this ceremony because the audio was very faint on Gallagher Way due to the microphones not being correctly wired up to the PA system. Also, I was not able to find a full video on YouTube to hear fully hear the remarks from Tom Ricketts, Larry Bowa, Shawon Dunston, and Bob Costas after the fact. As a result here is a detailed summary of only Ryno’s speech.

He opened his speech saying, “My life changed a lot in 1984 but that’s nothing compared to what happened six months ago. So my thoughts today are instead about love, life, family, and friends. My teammates fall into all those categories but until my cancer diagnosis I guess I never fully understood that.” There was no doubt in my mind he would bring up his battle with cancer which is not fully over.

He made the rest of his speech about friends, family, and love while including fans by saying, “As for the fans you always made it clear how you felt. You carried me my entire career but you have taken it to a whole new new level and I have felt every one of your posts on social media and in person by your comments. You are my friends as well and now you carried me through months of chemo and radiation. I’ll never be able to thank you properly.” This was a touching way for him to thank fans for the emotional support while he concludes his battle with cancer and seeks to receive a diagnosis of cancer free in the near future.

He continue his speech showing his humble side by saying, “You don’t get a statue by yourself every one of my teammates and coaches stands right there with me. Afterall, none of this happens if a disgruntled Larry Bowa doesn’t want out of Philadelphia.” Then he would share a story about how Shawon Dunston taught him a lot but never how to recover from a hamstring tweak overnight to get three hits off of Nolan Ryan on June 23, 1984.

Next he talked about how defense was always the most important part of the game for him saying, “I am so proud that this statue is a baseball player playing defense. Defense was always number one for me; change the game all you want but you don’t win championships without good defense.” It is often talked about how pitching and defense wins games and Ryne only drove this point home with this statement during his ceremony.

He concluded his speech before the statue was unveiled with the following thoughts, “Thinking about a statue. How about a bus ticket to Iowa after my 1-for-31 start. But here we are commitment, work ethic, and dreams; those are all good words. Faith, family, friends, and love; these are also very good words. They are probably the best words for me. I am not here without all those words. I am not here without my family, without my teammates, without Dallas Green, and without Cubs ownership. I am grateful to Tom Ricketts for this wonderful honor. To my wife Margret, I lifted you up in my arms almost 30 years ago and now you have lifted me up and put me on your back. I couldn’t have done this without you. I love you. To all the rest of you who can hear these words: Thank you for being my friend in 2024. I truly thank you.”

Here’s the thing folks: As a die hard Cubs fan who did not start following sports until the mid-1990s and did not become a Cubs fan until the home run race of 1998 I did not get to see Ryno play without watching replays and reruns of old games and I especially did not get to see Fergie play without watching replays or reruns of old games because he retired four years before I was born. None of that changes the fact that I recognize the importance of both of their careers and presence in Cubs history. It was very fitting that all of the 2024 Mets and, especially,  Cubs players were on the upstairs patio inside Wrigley Field watching the ceremony.

With that… I am left wondering will Kerry Wood be next?

If you cannot play with them, then root for them.

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