THE NUMBERS ARE there. They are what makes this game so endlessly satisfying and so timeless. The seasons may come and go, but the numbers are left behind for our keeping, accumulated remembrances in baseball's dusty attic.
In Ferguson Jenkins' case, there is no disputing the numbers. They speak with a quiet, forceful eloquence, which is the way Jenkins went about his trade as a major league pitcher. They remind you that this is a man deserving of enshrinement in baseball's Hall of Fame.
"I have the numbers," Jenkins, the Oklahoma City pitching coach, said Sunday in the visiting locker room at Pilot Field. "I pitched sufficiently enough to warrant some rewards. If it happens, it happens."
"Sufficient" is hardly the word to describe all Jenkins accomplished over a busy, 18-year career. No pitcher in history combined power and control so effectively as this artful, 6-foot-5 right-hander who went 284-226 without the luxury of ever playing for a championship team.
You could fill a newspaper page with his numbers, but suffice that few of the 46 pitchers in the Hall of Fame have numbers such as his. Only one of them surpassed his 3,192 strikeouts. None surpassed his remarkable feats of control. He is the only pitcher in history with more than 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks.
"Yeah, that's a record," Jenkins said with unmistakable pride. "I don't think anybody will break that or come close. That's my personal opinion, because I don't think anybody in baseball has that kind of control.
"I worked at it. The knowledge of hitters, knowing how to pitch and how to change speeds -- a lot of these fellows will do it at times, but not on a regular basis. I was blessed with good control, and I just kept working at it and said 'I'm not walking people. I'm going to make them put the ball in play.' "
In 1971, his Cy Young year, Jenkins walked only 37 for the Cubs. In 325 innings. He won 24 games and completed 30, an unheard-of figure in today's game. Three years later, he went 25-12 for Texas, walking only 45 in 328 innings of work.
Are you one of those zealots who feels Nolan Ryan's credentials make him a cinch for the Hall? Well, Jenkins has more victories and fewer defeats than Ryan. The walk-to-strikeout ratio isn't even worthy of discussion.
And yet, when he first became eligible for the Hall of Fame this year, Jenkins didn't make it. He didn't come all that close. Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski were voted in on their first try. Jenkins finished fifth behind a couple of other pitching greats, Gaylord Perry and Jim Bunning.
Had the voting been based solely on numbers, Jenkins might have made it. Unfortunately, what the voters refer to as "off-field activities" got in his way. Some of them, it seems, weren't so mindful of his statistics as they were of his one, well-documented lapse of judgment and control.
In 1980, police in Toronto discovered cocaine, marijuana and hashish in Jenkins' suitcase. He never has told the full story about the drug arrest, except to say that doing so would implicate other players.
He was found guilty, but the presiding judge later expunged the guilty verdict because of Jenkins' previously clean record and his fine civic record in his native Canada. Earlier that year, he had been given the Order of Canada, emblematic of outstanding humanitarian achievement.
"The way things are today with drugs and sports, right away the guy becomes a criminal, a convict," Jenkins said. "Basically, the guy is . . . stupid. That's what it was in my case. It happened. You can't undo it. Who's to say if it hurt me on the ballot this year? I probably lost some votes, sure."
He harbors no bitterness, though. Baseball was good to him. He played with and against some of the greatest players in the game's history. He had a good run and he knew when to get out. After pitching for two seasons in a second stint with the Cubs, he retired to his 190-acre farm in Blenheim, Ont., after the 1983 season.
"Cleveland phoned me in 1985 and said 'Fergie, why don't you come to spring training and win a job?' . . . Dan O'Brien (then the Cleveland GM) said, 'This is a good opportunity for you to win some ballgames and get close to 300 if you want to.' I said no. I didn't want to be a promotional item every time I pitched, where it's a countdown to 300."
Jenkins did yearn for a return to baseball, though. He coached Canada's entry in the 1987 Pan Am Games. Last year, he got a call from Toby Harrah, Oklahoma City's manager at the time, asking him to be the pitching coach.
Sure, he said. Now he spends his time instructing pitchers half his age on the virtues of throwing the ball over the plate, of making hitters put the ball in play. He'd like to manage some day, but that might take some time. Getting a manager's job is difficult enough these days for a black man. Having a drug arrest in your portfolio will make it that much tougher.
It's enough for Jenkins to be back in the game, back where he belongs. He knows all about control, and that he has no control over the minds of the Hall of Fame voters. But if there's any justice in the Hall, his time is coming. For there's no doubt that Ferguson Jenkins belongs. The evidence is there in the numbers. You could look it up.