A regular guy, Fergie. "I consider myself a Cub," Jenkins says, "but the Rangers were the most fun. Some of us went to a movie once, and I heard this noise. Fpuh...fpuh...fpuh.... And I looked over, and it was Jim Kern, the Emu [a Ranger relief pitcher]. He was blowing popcorn up in the air from his nose and catching it in his mouth. He'd get it way up in the air. Fpuh...fpuh.... Later he did it in the clubhouse."
Nine years ago I hooked up with this same Ferguson Jenkins in my greatest moment on a baseball field. And he doesn't remember it.
The popcorn-from-the-nose thing, that sticks in his mind.
My mind as well, true. But when I took the Norwegian Cruise Line Baseball Cruise in November, I was hoping to hear something more inspiring or consoling.
We were out for a week, sailing from Miami and back again by way of St. John, St. Thomas and San Juan with, as the brochures put it, The Legends: Bob Feller, Maury Wills, Manny Sanguillen and Jenkins. Whose significant other, Cindy Backherms, calls him the Fergmeister.
And active players: Greg Olson of the Braves, Juan Samuel and Mike Sharper-son of the Dodgers. Orlando Merced and Bob Patterson of the Pirates, Omar Olivares of the Cardinals, Jarvis Brown and Bob Kipper of the Twins, Jeff Montgomery of the Royals, Eric Show of the A's, Pat Tabler of the Blue Jays, Milt Cuyler of the Tigers, Pat Kelly of the Yankees, Kevin Morton of the Red Sox and Mark Williamson of the Orioles. (We were supposed to have Chuck Knoblauch and Gene Larkin of the Twins, but they became World Series heroes and canceled.)
And a distinguished ex-umpire: Satch Davidson. Who, when he gets to reminiscing about his minor league playing days, mentions in passing that he had a teammate named Old Jesus MacFarland. Whether there was a Young Jesus MacF., I don't know. I can't believe I was on board ship for a week with a man who used to play with an Old Jesus MacFarland and I never found out how Old Jesus got his name.
Hey, it was a cruise. The woman with the feelers was tuned into it. I had some problems.
•One, a legends problem. By this time, according to my boyhood calculations, I should myself be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I am 50 now and have not yet played organized hardball at any level above high school. My prospects of enshrinement grow dimmer and dimmer. Meanwhile there were all these guys on the cruise who have already become big leaguers—guys young enough to be my sons, most of them making eight or 10 times the money I make, guys I have just barely heard of, frankly (it looks like I'm losing ground as a fan, even).
I didn't talk to any of those guys much. I just overheard them—one, for instance, telling a father who was seeking an autograph for his son, "If he wants to be a ballplayer, tell him to read this. No, it's not the date, it's Philippians 4:10-13." I'll bet Old Jesus MacFarland never mixed autographs with scripture.