Jenkins, Williams talk about today's 'babied' pitchers

Associated Press /Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, here pictured at an appearance in Chicago, signed autographs and talked about the state of major league baseball at the Midwest League All-Star Fan Fest in South Bend on Monday.

SOUTH BEND — After signing an endless number of autographs, Ferguson Jenkins had two more loyal fans waiting for him after he walked away from his tent.

A jersey and baseball from a father and son got signed from the former Chicago Cubs great and 1991 Hall of Famer.

"I do a lot of these at All-Star games," said the 76-year old Jenkins. "It's fun and it's great to be with the fans.

"I was surprised today that I signed around 50 of my rookie cards."

Jenkins, Andre Dawson, Mitch Williams, Leon Durham and Steve Trout did signings Monday as part of the Midwest League All-Star Game Fan Fest at Four Winds Field.

Before talking about baseball, Jenkins – a native Canadian – had interest in talking about another sport.

"You want to talk about my hockey career," he joked. "I still skate."

Jenkins' passion for hockey was replaced by a stellar career in baseball as a right-handed pitcher.

In the minor leagues, Jenkins remembered the times he was very young and among the best.

"I was in All-Star games in Chatanooga and Birmingham," Jenkins said. "I threw two or three innings."

Those innings grew when he became a Major Leaguer when he pitched for the Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.

He finished with a 284-226 record with a 3.34 earned-run average and 3,192 strikeouts.

Impressive numbers, but there were two others pitching stats that stick out more. Jenkins finished with 267 completes games and 49 shutouts.

Jenkins was blessed with good health and durability.

In today's game, few pitchers have that combination.

Jenkins gave his answer why you don't see pitchers staying healthy and piling up the innings in this era.

"Pitchers don't throw enough these days," Jenkins said. "They don't throw batting practice. They don't run to help keep their bodies strong. If a pitcher gets on base and tries to go from first to third they pull hamstrings and hurt themselves."

Hurt feelings don't seem to exist these days for Jenkins when you bring up the 50-year anniversary of the Chicago Cubs, who failed down the stretch to win the National League East and make the World Series. The Cubs were in first place for 155 days before finishing 92-70 and eight games behind the New York Mets. A 17-25 record in September cost the Cubs.

The World Series Championship in 2016 from the Cubs helped erase some the disappointment from 1969.

"They had a better team," Jenkins said. "They were on a roll and had a good September. We didn't have a good September. The Mets had the best September and, unfortunately, we didn't win the division."

Williams didn't have as lengthy of a career with the Cubs, but it was memorable because of his "Wild Thing" nickname and his knack for making saves exciting and hard on a fans' heart.

His best season as a Cub came in 1989 when the Cubs won the National League East Division title. In that season, Williams finished with a record of 4-4 with a 2.76 ERA with 36 saves and 67 strikeouts over 76 appearances. Williams was an All-Star that season for the only time in his career.

These days, Williams is a little heavier with tattoos covering his arms.

"This is cool," said Williams about the Fan Fest. "It's nice to see minor league parks filling up and coming out for All-Star games like this. It's nice to see the Home Run Derby and treating the minor leagues like the big leagues."

Williams stays busy these days interacting with fans and doing plenty of signings.

"I couldn't even count them," said the 54-year old Williams. "A few."

Williams also gave his opinion on the state of pitching in today's game.

"They don't let pitcher's pitch inside any more and they don't let them pitch enough," Williams said. "They baby them and because of that you get injuries."

The former hard-throwing lefty gave a surprising answer when asked if he still follows the Cubs.

"No, not really," he said. "I don't watch a lot of baseball. I just follow my kid. He's 15-years old and a catcher."

 

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