Fergie Jenkins on racial inequalities throughout his MLB career
Former Cubs pitcher Fergie Jenkins discussed the racial inequalities he faced during his baseball career in the 1960s and how he overcame those obstacles on Off The Mound with Ryan Dempster.
Jenkins pitched in the majors for 19 seasons from 1965-1983. During the early part of his career, Jenkins endured hurdles on his way to the majors.
“Growing up as a youngster in Canada, I had no problems with people understanding you as a person. When I signed at the age of 18 and played in Miami, Freddie Mason gave us a lecture on where we could go, where we could eat and he told us ,’Don’t think that you’re better than someone else’ because you had to give your money to one of the white players on the team,” Jenkins said. “They would bring the food back in because that’s the way it was. For that six weeks, it was a learning experience.”
Jenkins also recalled a game out in Palatka, Florida with fans harassing in the outfield. But even with all the noise that Jenkins heard, he felt safe when stepping onto the baseball field.
“When I couldn’t tolerate the noise and the names they’d call certain players, I’d walk to the infield. I always felt safe on the baseball field. I don’t think people were going to challenge you because of regardless your color or who you were. They have to come on that field,” Jenkins said.
The next year, Jenkins played in Little Rock, Arkansas and it became an eye-opening experience for him.
“They did not want players of color. We were the first players of color to play there and it worked out. The next year, I made it to the big leagues. We weren’t going to change things that were written in stone. In 1964, they passed the Bill of Rights which gave athletes and people of color the right to do other things and then Martin Luther King Jr. came on the scene,” Jenkins said. “It was a learning experience…but to me, it taught me what life was all about.”