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On the morning of Jan. 8, Dennis Clark, pastor of the First Christian Church in Guthrie, got to chatting with Jenkins. He'd heard about the accident. "By the way," he said, "how's your wife?"
"Terrible," Fergie said. Mary Anne hadn't lasted very long on the seventh floor. On Dec. 27, the day that she held her baby for the first time since the accident, the hospital had called Fergie at home. Mary Anne's lung had collapsed. They had sent her back up to the ninth floor. After four weeks in the hospital, she had developed pneumonia.
The afternoon of Jan. 8, Clark drove down to Memorial Hospital to look in on Mary Anne. Fergie was already there. He was telling her that he might not be able to visit the next day, that he was expecting a phone call, and if the news was good, if he had made the Hall of Fame, he would have to fly to New York City in the morning for a press conference.
While Clark stood by, Mary Anne spoke to Fergie too. She had a tube in her trachea and could make no sound, so Fergie read her lips. Clark had trouble making out the words, but he understood "I love you."
That evening, while Jenkins was home fixing supper for Raymond and Samantha, the telephone rang. "This is Jack Lang," the executive secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America said when Fergie answered. "Let me be the first to congratulate you on your election to the Hall of Fame."
Jenkins had made it on his third try. His credentials were solid, but there had been speculation that he might never get in because of his 1980 trial in Toronto for possession of cocaine. (He was found guilty, but the judge gave him an absolute discharge, clearing his record.) Whenever anyone had asked him what he thought of his chances, he had always given the same reply: If it was going to happen, he hoped his father would still be alive to see it.
Ferguson Holmes Jenkins, 83, was the first person Ferguson Arthur Jenkins called after Lang hung up. The elder Jenkins (himself the son of Ferguson Joe Jenkins) was once a speedy center-fielder for the Windsor (Ont.) Black Barons and played on a couple of Ontario championship teams in the late '30s. But because there was no future in those days for black ballplayers, eventually he moved back home to Chatham. He married and earned a living as a chauffeur and a chef.
The Jenkinses lived on the edge of town, practically in the country. Fergie was their only child; his mother, Delores, went blind after his birth and never had any more kids.
Like every other boy in Chatham, Fergie played hockey. He was a defenseman, talented but not talented enough to go all the way to the NHL. (Even after he made it to the big leagues in baseball, Jenkins continued to play amateur hockey in the off-season. Once, during a playoff game in an industrial league in 1975, he got speared in front of the net, dropped his gloves, hit the offending opponent "about five times in the forehead" and shattered the second knuckle of his pitching hand. The cast was supposed to stay on for two months, but after six weeks Jenkins removed it himself the night before reporting to spring training with the Rangers. He won 17 games that year without ever telling anyone why he soaked his hand in the whirlpool after every start.)
When hockey didn't work out, Jenkins tried basketball, and he became a star center at Chatham Vocational School in '61 and '62. No college offered him a scholarship, though he was good enough to spend parts of two winters in the late '60s touring with the Harlem Globetrotters. Baseball was his third choice. As a child he had honed his control by throwing rocks down the ice chutes of a neighborhood coal yard and through the doors of moving boxcars. When the Phillies offered him $7,500 in 1962, he signed and went off to play ball.