September 1, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
It was the greatest all-around performance of Fergie Jenkins’ major league career.
Fifty-two years ago today, not only did the Chatham, Ont., native pitch a complete game for the Chicago Cubs in their 5-2 win over the Montreal Expos at Wrigley Field, but he also belted two home runs.
“That’s what you call doing it all!” Cubs catcher and Jenkins battery-mate Chris Cannizzaro told the Montreal Star after the game.
“Doing it all” indeed.
Complete games were not uncommon for Jenkins. This was his 26th of the 1971 season, but home runs were less frequent – though not entirely unheard of.
First Home Run
Jenkins’ two-run homer to left field in the fifth inning off Expos ace Bill Stoneman was his third of the season.
“I knew I was going to get a breaking ball from Stoneman,” Jenkins told the Chicago Tribune after the game. “He hung a slider and I knew it was gone.”
Second Home Run
Jenkins wasn’t so sure about his second round-tripper that he clubbed off Expos reliever Jim Britton.
“The second one off Britton on an 0-2 looping curve was hit up in the air, and when I saw [Boots] Day drift back on it, I wasn’t so sure it would go out,” Jenkins told The Montreal Star.
According to Montreal Gazette reporter Ian MacDonald, Britton slammed the rosin bag down twice and berated himself on the mound after allowing the homer on an 0-2 pitch. He knew the run would not only cost the Expos on the scoreboard, but him in the pocketbook.
According to MacDonald, Expos manager Gene Mauch had implemented an automatic $100 fine to any of his pitchers “allowing the batter to make solid contact in fair territory on a nothing-and-two count.”
“He won’t throw that pitch again. He has good stuff when he breaks it a little. But he can’t throw that looping curve,” said Mauch about Britton’s 0-2 pitch to Jenkins after the game.
Jenkins’ second home run gave him three of the Cubs’ five RBIs in the contest.
On the mound, Jenkins limited the Expos to six hits and two runs (one earned run). He walked one and struck out six.
“I had good velocity on all my pitches,” Jenkins told the Chicago Tribune.
The win was Jenkins’ 21st of the season and it spurred more talk that he was on track to become the first Canadian to win the National League Cy Young Award.
“It doesn’t look like there’s anyone else near him, does it?” said Mauch when asked about Jenkins’ Cy Young case after the game. “He’s an athlete out far above the average.”
National League Cy Young Award
For the record, Jenkins did win the Cy Young Award that season. He earned three more wins and tossed four more complete game to finish the campaign with a 24-13 record and a 2.71 ERA in 39 starts, spanning 325 innings. He had 30 complete games.
He also belted two more home runs that September to finish the season with six, along with a .478 slugging percentage, which was better than his Hall of Fame teammate Ron Santo.
That’s an outstanding offensive season for a pitcher, and much of it was due to his greatest all-round major league performance, which took place 52 years ago today.