On Jan. 8, after Fergie spoke to his dad—who, immediately upon hearing the good news, packed his bags for the summer trip to Cooperstown—he rushed to the airport in time to catch the last flight to New York. There was a press conference at the Sheraton Centre in Manhattan the next morning with two other inductees, Gaylord Perry and Rod Carew, and then it was on to O'Hare for a quick go-around with the Chicago writers, and finally back home to Oklahoma. By the time Fergie reached Mary Anne's bedside on the evening of Jan. 9, it was late, and she was already sedated for the night.
"I told [the nurse] I'd be back around nine [the next morning]," Jenkins says. "I came. She was awake. I told her. And that was the only time she ever really smiled. So she was happy. And I was really happy that she was recovering."
Two days later, Jenkins was back at the airport in Oklahoma City, on his way to a card show in Fort Wayne, Ind. He had checked with the doctors and been assured that Mary Anne's condition was stable. Besides, he would be away only one night. But before he got on the plane, he called home. Dennis Miller, Mary Anne's brother, told him to go to the hospital right away. By the time he got there, Mary Anne was gone. She had died, not of her injuries but of pneumonia.
There are five people Jenkins will be thinking of at the induction ceremony in Cooperstown on July 21.
Mary Anne, of course. Jerry McCaffrey, the English teacher and gym assistant in Chatham who recommended Fergie to the area scout for the Phillies. (McCaffrey died of a heart attack in the late '60s, at age 32.) Tony Lucadello, the Phillies scout who signed Fergie—and 48 others who made it to the major leagues. (Two years ago the 77-year-old Lucadello committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.) Kathy Jackson, Fergie's late grandmother, who had looked after Delores so selflessly after Delores lost her sight. And Delores herself, 140 pounds of maternal love and order ("Now Fergie, finish whatever you start, son"), who saw so much ("C'mon, sit down and tell me what's wrong") but never saw her son play ball. She fell sick the winter of 1968, after Fergie's first 20-win season in the big leagues, and died two years later of stomach cancer at the age of 52. All that was left of her at the end was 60 pounds of flesh and bone.
How does a person deal with so much loss?
"I don't know," Jenkins says. "In some cases, uh, maybe I haven't dealt real good with it. They all wanted good things to happen to me, they're all influential. Out of those five people who died, I went to three funerals. And god, it's a terrible situation. It's a gut-wrenching feeling, sometimes. I miss my mother, I miss my wife. I just try to.... I handle it."
When Fergie's mother died, he was crushed, and he wondered why God would choose to punish again and again a good woman who was already blind. He put a tattoo on his left arm—a cross with a rose and the words TRUST IN GOD, because he wasn't so sure he did, and he felt the need to be reminded. But the day after she was buried, he flew to Montreal, took his regular turn on the mound and won.
And years later when his career ended abruptly, he didn't retreat like so many other ballplayers, the ones who find the only way to get the game out of their systems is to go cold turkey—no trips to the ballpark, no watching games on TV, no playing catch with the kids. Jenkins handled it. When his buddies from Blenheim wanted to drive over to Tiger Stadium in Detroit for Opening Day, he went along and sat there in the stands like a fan and endured the teasing in the beer line, everybody saying, "Fergie, what are you doing here?"
So it's really not surprising that Fergie made it to that card show in Fort Wayne; flew up Sunday morning, the day after Mary Anne died. "I don't think I spoke to a lot of people," he says. "I just signed for them, did it, and they took me to the airport and I flew on home. I guess [the promoter] was happy that I showed up. I think"—and he pauses before he goes on—"I was happy that I went, maybe. I don't know. At least I did what I said I would."