Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins will be immortalized with a statue coming next Spring.
According to Mayor Darrin Canniff, there will soon be a nine-foot replica sculpture, made from the same mold as the one on display outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago, of a local legend.
Fergie Jenkins, a native of Chatham, was the first Canadian inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and is also enshrined in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“This is an absolutely thrilling moment for me, given that this is arguably one of the biggest icons here. I call him royalty,” said Canniff.
Canniff, who was in Chicago when the original statue was unveiled, said he’s thrilled Chatham is now receiving a statue of their own to honour the Chatham-raised ballplayer.
“When I was there, I said we’ve got to have one of these in Chatham-Kent, and it’s happening,” he said
Canniff spoke with Ridgetown native Shaun O’Rourke to see what could be done about making a replica happen.
“I said wow, don’t think that’s ever been done. I don’t think any Hall of Famer has ever had a sculpture replicated,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke said he was able to get in contact with the person who does the sculpting. Canniff then went to Chicago, met with a sculptor, met with the owners of the Cubs and told them his idea of wanting a replica statue in Chatham.
“Luckily, they kept the mould which shortens the timeframe down. And so they’re able to replicate the sculpture that is in Chicago. It should be done by the end of April or May. That’s what they’re shooting for,” said O’Rourke.
Canniff said an anonymous donor is paying all costs for the statue and its installation. The price of the statue is unknown.
Jenkins said he still can’t believe he’s also being immortalized in Chicago and Chatham.
“That’s something that’s surprising each time I think about it. Especially now with the mayor bringing the statue here, I think that’s going to be even more immortalized,” said Jenkins. “When I go down and see my grandkids and relatives, they can understand that I played one of the best games in the world, baseball.”
The statue portrays Jenkins in his windup, about to deliver a pitch. The Chatham native said the artwork humbles him.
He added it’s meaningful to have a sculpture where he grew up and played baseball, and hopes it will grow and promote the sport across Chatham-Kent.
“Chatham was a town that fundamentally supported baseball in the summer months. The kids really want to play the sport of baseball,” said Jenkins. “We have the facilities here, and we have good coaches.”
O’Rourke said that while Jenkins is one of the greatest pitchers to ever live, he is always amazed at the kind of person he is.
“He is such an approachable person, very humbled, very graceful, very approachable,” he said. “Baseball has always been a huge factor in my life, and I’ve always had a great connection with Fergie over the years. I’m still I’m friends with Fergie to this day.”
O’Rourke said he recalls when Jenkins would take him under his wing to help him get scouted.
“We were out on the ball diamond pretty well every day. And he just helped me in development. And that, in turn, boosted my confidence, and I ended up getting scouted with the Atlanta Braves organization,” he said.
The statue will be temporarily displayed in the atrium at the current Civic Centre in Chatham and perhaps later at the new proposed Civic Centre downtown as per Jenkins’ request.
“Fergie didn’t want the statue at the ball diamond. He didn’t want just baseball players and fans of baseball to see it. He wanted to share it with everybody,” he said. “It’s going to be entirely up to Fergie where the statue goes.”
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News