Cubs retire No. 31 for Jenkins, Maddux

By Carrie Muskat
Updated: May 3, 2009

CHICAGO — One pitcher is in the Hall of Fame, the other will be soon. Both could locate a fastball and didn’t believe a quality start was six innings. When Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux took the mound, they wanted to finish what they started.

On Sunday, Jenkins and Maddux were honored by the Cubs as the No. 31, which both pitchers wore, was retired. No.

31 joined No. 10 (Ron Santo), No. 14 (Ernie Banks), No. 23 (Ryne Sandberg), and No. 26 (Billy Williams) in being retired by the Cubs.

Major League Baseball retired No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.

“It’s sensational,” Jenkins said of the honor.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Maddux said, “and it’s pretty cool to have it up there with Fergie, too.”

Jenkins played for the Cubs from 1966-73 and again from 1982-83, while Maddux also had two stints, from 1986-92 and 2004-06. When Maddux announced last December he was retiring from baseball, the Cubs announced they would honor the pair.

Maddux finished with 355 victories, winning 133 with the Cubs. Jenkins posted a 167-132 record with Chicago, and his achievements during the 1971 season are simply amazing to current pitchers. He won the Cy Young Award that year, totaling 30 complete games out of his 39 starts.

And neither Jenkins nor Maddux considered what they did to be a chore.

“The fun part of doing what we did is putting that uniform on, and you’re at home on that field in the ballpark,” Jenkins said. “It’s your second home.”

“I always felt like it was a privilege to wear the uniform,” Maddux said. “Almost every day, when I was sitting there putting it on, I would realize it was a privilege and an honor to put on the uniform.

“Because I felt that way, I tried to do it right,” Maddux said. “I just tried to do it right every day and didn’t worry about what the score was in the ninth inning. As long as I did everything right before the game was over, I felt pretty good about myself.”

On Sunday, the two pitchers were presented with portraits of themselves, painted by Chicago artist John Hanley.

Cubs chairman Crane Kenney introduced them, and the flags were raised.

Jenkins’ catcher, Randy Hundley, and teammate Glenn Beckert hoisted the big right-hander’s No. 31 up the flag pole in left field, while former catcher Jody Davis raised Maddux’s No. 31 in right.

Santo and Hall of Famers Banks and Williams were also in attendance to salute the two. Williams said Jenkins was the only pitcher who would position him in the outfield. Jenkins knew what pitch he was going to throw and what the hitter would do.

“A quality start? Those guys would throw that back — it’s just like small fish,” Williams said.

“[Jenkins] was durable.

“Whenever he wanted to throw a strike, he would throw a strike. When he went to the mound, we thought we had a game won because that’s the type of pitcher he was.”

Williams enjoyed watching Maddux, too.

“He’s always looking and thinking on the field, ‘How can I make myself better?'” Williams said. “Every time I looked at an Atlanta baseball game [after Maddux went there in ’92], Maddux didn’t sit with the pitchers.”

“He sat with Clarence Jones, the hitting coach, because he wanted to get an idea as to how that particular player was thinking and what was his approach.”

Both will be in select company because they walked fewer than 1,000 batters in their careers. Maddux finished at 999, Jenkins 997.

“Walks are not part of our game,” Jenkins said. “Pitch to contact and make the hitter do part of the work — that was my theory.”

Maddux didn’t see many of Jenkins’ games, but did do his homework on the Canadian right-hander.

“In talking to some of the coaches who played with him, I was told he could paint,” Maddux said. “I remember [when] one of the coaches compared me to him, and I learned that Fergie was known for his control and the complete games and innings are incredible.”

“That’s what guys did. They threw nine innings. You look at pitchers now, and if they could go seven, that’s pretty good. There is a difference.”

In Jenkins’ era, the coaches would create a target out of strings and have the pitchers practice throwing to it at different speeds for about an hour each week. He also threw batting practice between starts.

Maddux relied on location and change of speeds instead of 99-mph fastballs.

“When I lost a foot or two off my fastball, it really wasn’t that big a deal,” Maddux said. “I felt I could locate and change speeds, keep the ball in the ballpark and I’d have a chance to win.”

Maddux recalls his first day at Wrigley when he was called up in September 1986. His locker was next to Rick Sutcliffe, and there was a No. 31 jersey waiting for him, issued by equipment manager Yosh Kawano.

Kawano had also given Jenkins No. 31 some 20 years earlier, although Jenkins had actually requested No. 30, the number he’d worn with the Phillies.

“[Kawano] said, ‘No, big fella, Kenny Holtzman has 30,'” Jenkins said. “He said, ‘But you can have 31.'”

After Jenkins’ career ended with the Cubs in 1983, he went fishing in Toronto. Maddux has been watching his son, Chase, play baseball and spending more time on the golf course.

“I’m just relaxing,” Maddux said. “Mentally, it’s relaxing. When you’re playing, mentally, it can be tough and draining. That burden’s been gone and been lifted. My biggest worry now is if the ball’s going to hook or slice. It’s not a bad thing.”