Jenkins opens his museum, lobbies for Santo

*Fergie Jenkins, Canada's national treasure, was in in St. Catharines to open his museum.


By Bob Elliott

ST. CATHARINES  - Hall of famer Fergie Jenkins hopes to wake up next month and hear news his late pal Ron Santo has been elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

“The best third basemen I saw in the National League have been Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and Ron Santo,” said Jenkins of his former Chicago Cubs teammate.

“Ron won five gold gloves, was in nine all-star games, has all kinds of doubles (365), RBIs (1,331) and Cubs records. It’s incredible that he’s not in, in fact it is embarrassing to Major League Baseball.”

Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Allie Reynolds, Luis Tiant and Santo, along with executives Buzzie Bavasi and Charlie Finley were named to golden era (1947-72) ballot on Thursday. A 16-man committee, including Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, meets Dec. 4-5 in Dallas at the winter meetings and on Dec. 5 anyone receiving 12 or more votes will be elected.

“Ron being elected would be a shot in the arm for the whole Cubs organization, his sons Ron, Jr. and Jeff would accept on his behalf,” said Jenkins after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Fergie Jenkins Museum on Commerce Place.

The 5,000 square-foot, two-story, is housed in a suite in a strip mall in the Vansickle Road area and was made possible by a $10,000 Trillium foundation donation.

Jenkins, a national treasure long before he became the first and only Canadian inducted into Cooperstown, now has a league named after him — the Fergie Jenkins Showcase League — just like Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial and Babe Ruth.

The Burlington Double Blues, Ontario Outlaws, Ontario Athletics, OIBA Prospects, Ontario Cardinals, the Ontario Prospects and the Bullett Proof Prospects, run by former major league outfielder Scott Bullett, will each have 16 and 18-year-old teams that begin play next May.

“So many kids get overlooked,” said Jenkins, who lives north of Scottsdale, Ariz., but is a frequent visitor to the Niagara region what with three daughters in Ontario, two in Chatham, one in Hamilton, Ont., and his foundation in St. Catharines.

Bullett, who was with the 1995 Chicago Cubs when Jenkins was the pitching coach, is his point man.

“I was worried about baseball in our region,” said Bullett. “Fergie was willing to take the bull by the horns as far as developing kids, getting them exposure.”

Bullett says rather than players travelling to Florida to attend showcases, both Walt Burrows, director of Canadian scouting for the Major League Scouting Bureau and Greg Hamilton, coach of the Canadian Junior National Team, will visit the league next season,

Santo never received more than 43.1% of the vote from the Baseball Writers of American Association in his 15 years on the ballot, yet when hall of famers made up the Veteran’s Committee he fell eight votes shy in 2007 and nine shy in 2009. Santo died Dec. 3, 2010.

Santo and Jenkins first met 1965, Jenkins pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies as a September callup. And Santo playing third for the Cubs.

“We’re playing on a dismal, drizzly day before a crowd of 892,” Jenkins recalled. “I come in to pitch the eighth in a tie game and Ron hits a wind-blown homer to beat us. I thought I’m glad I don’t have to pitch here.”

The next April, the Phillies dealt John Herrnstein, Adolfo Phillips and Jenkins to the Cubs for veteran starters Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson. Jenkins pitched 10 years for the Cubs, winning 167 games. He also won the 1971 Cy Young award, 284 games in his career and in 1991 was elected to Cooperstown.

In February Jenkins had a Canadian stamp dedicated to him, and was awarded the Order of Canada in 2007.

The medal was on display at the museum as was a painting of when the Cubs retired Jenkins’ No. 31, along with of pictures Ernie Banks, Eddie Murray, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Andre Dawson, Yogi Berra, Goose Gossage and Jenkins, who are all in the Hall of Fame, plus Buck O’Neill, who should be. A sign advertises the greatest collection of Hall of Fame autographed balls in Canada and it has all 65 living HOFers, including this year’ inductees Robbie Alomar, Pat Gillick and Bert Blyleven.

And his scrapbooks which include clippings from the 1960s.

Jenkins is one of a few HOFers with his own museum: Babe Ruth in Baltimore, Ty Cobb, Atlanta, Ted Williams, St. Petersburg, Hank Aaron, Mobile, Ala., Mickey Mantle, Commerce, Oak., Nolan Ryan, Alvin, Tex., Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh, Jim Bottomly, Red Ruffing Ray Schalk. in Nokomis, Ill., Bob Feller, Van Meter, Iowa and Berra, Montclair, N.J.

As a 12-year-old we clipped full-page pictures from SPORT magazine and wrote form letters to players:

Dear (name):

You’ve always been my favourite. I cheer for you, could you please sign this and place in the self-addressed envelope.

Thanks, have a great 1962 season.

Your fan, Bobby

The Milwaukee Braves were my team, third baseman Mathews my favourite player.

One day a envelope arrived with a signed picture of Santo.

Either Mathews or Santo started for the NL. I rooted against Santo fearing it would hurt Mathews. Not only did Santo sign the picture, he wrote:

“To my pal, Bobby

A life-long Cubs fan

All the best

Your buddy, Ron Santo

Thanks for cheering us.”

This wasn’t an autograph and I’d been rooting against him.

I’m rooting for him this time.