columbia pfg polo Chicagoans warming to Wrigley’s Winter Classic
Just a few steps from the pitchers’ mound where he starred for so many years, Fergie Jenkins will find something tomorrow he never thought he would see in the middle of Wrigley Field: An ice rink.
Truth be told, Jenkins, the greatest Canadian baseball player to lace up a pair of cleats, can’t wait to step onto the field where he will join other former Chicago sporting greats in a pre game ceremony at the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.
“Hockey was kind of my first love,” Jenkins, 65, said yesterday during a phone interview from Arizona. “Then basketball. Baseball was just something you did in the summer.”
Something he did so well, in fact, that,
in 1991, the former Cubs great became the first Canadian inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N. Y.
But as a kid growing up in Chatham, Ont., hockey ruled.
He got his first pair of skates at age four. After honing his skills on the frozen Thames River and various local ponds, he evolved into a Junior B defenceman by the time the Philadelphia Phillies signed him at age 17.
With the baseball team concerned about the threat of injury, Jenkins’ hockey career came to an abrupt end.
“Looking back, I probably picked the right sport,” said Jenkins, who won 284 major league games. “I don’t think I would have had a 21 year career in hockey.
“It’s going to be so much fun to be there,
” he said. “Dick Butkus is supposed to be there too. And Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull are supposed to be part of the ceremonial faceoff.