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Edward Charles "Whitey" Ford (born October 21, 1928Some sources, such as Retrosheet, claim a 1926 birthdate.
) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who spent his entire 18-year career with the New York Yankees. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 1974.

Biography

Early life and career

Ford was a native of the Astoriamarker neighborhood of Queensmarker, located in New York Citymarker just a few miles from Yankee Stadiummarker over the Triborough Bridgemarker. Ford was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in , and played his entire career in a Yankees uniform. He was given the nickname "Whitey" while in the minor leagues for his exceptionally blond hair. Ford graduated from Aviation High School in nearby Sunnyside, Queens.

Ford began his Major League Baseball career on July 1, , with the Yankees and made a spectacular debut, winning his first nine decisions before losing a game in relief. Ford received a handful of lower-ballot Most Valuable Player votes despite throwing just 112 innings, and was voted the AL Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News. (Walt Dropo was the Rookie of Year choice of the BBWAA.)

In and he served in the Army during the Korean War. He rejoined the Yankees for the season, and the Yankee "Big Three" pitching staff became a "Big Four," as Ford joined Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat.

Pitching career

Eventually Ford went from the No. 4 pitcher on a great staff to the universally acclaimed No. 1 pitcher of the Yankees, becoming known as the "Chairman of the Board" for his ability to remain calm and in command during high-pressure situations. He was also known as "Slick" for his craftiness on the mound. Ford's guile was necessary because he did not have an overwhelming fastball, but being able to throw several other pitches very well gave him pinpoint control. Nonetheless, Ford was an effective strikeout pitcher for his time, tying the then-AL record for six consecutive strikeouts in , and again in 1958. Ford pitched 2 consecutive one-hit games in to tie a record held by several pitchers. He never pitched a no-hitter.

In , Ford led the American League in complete games and games won; in in earned run average and winning percentage; in , in earned run average; and in both and , in games won and winning percentage. Ford won the Cy Young Award in 1961; he likely would have won the AL Cy Young, but this was before the institution of a separate award for each league, and Ford could not match Sandy Koufax's numbers for the Los Angeles Dodgers of the National League. He would also have been a candidate in , but this was before the award was created.

Some of Ford's totals were depressed by Yankees manager Casey Stengel who viewed Ford as his top pitching asset, and often reserved his ace left-hander for more formidable opponents such as the Tigers, Indians and White Sox. When he became manager in 1961, Ralph Houk promised Ford he would pitch every fourth day, regardless of opponent; after exceeding 30 starts only once in his nine seasons under Stengel, Ford had 39 in 1961. A career-best 25-4 record and the Cy Young Award ensued, but Ford's season was overshadowed by the home run battle between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. As a left-hander, Ford was also deft at keeping runners at their base: He set a record in 1961 by pitching 243 consecutive innings without allowing a stolen base.

At one point during the 1963 season, Ford pitched a shutout and announced he had given up smoking. He said, "My doctor told me that whenever I think of smoking, I should think of a bus starting up and blowing the exhaust in my face."

Career statistics

Ford won 236 games for New York (career 236-106), still a franchise record. Red Ruffing, the previous Yankee record-holder, still leads all Yankee right-handed pitchers, with 231 of his 273 career wins coming with the Yankees. Other Yankee pitchers have had more career wins (for example, Roger Clemens notched his 300th career victory as a Yankee), but amassed them for multiple franchises. David Wells tied Whitey Ford for 13th place in victories by a lefhander on August 26, .

Among pitchers with at least 300 career decisions, Ford ranks first with a winning percentage of .690, the all-time highest percentage in modern baseball history. (Pedro Martínez ranked ahead of him for most of his career, but slipped to .006 behind Ford by the end of the season.)

Ford's career winning percentage cannot be attributed solely to being on a good team: The Yankees were 1,486-1,027 during his 16 years; without his 236-106, they had 1,250 wins and 921 losses, for a won-loss percentage of .576. Ford was thus 11.4 percentage points higher than his team's record, independent of his record.

Ford's 2.75 earned run average is the lowest among starting pitchers whose careers began after the advent of the Live Ball Era in . Ford's worst-ever ERA was 3.24. Ford had 45 shutout victories in his career, including eight 1-0 wins.

World Series and All-Star Games

Ford's status on the Yankees was underscored by the World Series. Ford was New York's Game One pitcher in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964. In the 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Stengel altered this strategy by holding Ford back until Game Three, a decision that angered Ford. The Yankees' ace won both his starts in Games Three and Six with complete-game shutouts, but was then unavailable to relieve in the last game of an unexpected Yankees loss, Bill Mazeroski's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth winning the game—and the Series—for the Pirates. Ford always felt that had he been able to appear in three of the games instead of just two, the Yankees would have won. Upper management may have agreed: Stengel was fired following the Series.

For his career, Ford had 10 World Series victories, more than any other pitcher. Ford also leads all starters in World Series losses (8) and starts (22), as well as innings, hits, walks, and strikeouts. In 1961 he broke Babe Ruth's World Series record of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. (The record would eventually reach 33 2/3. It is still a World Series record, although Mariano Rivera broke it as a postseason record in 2000.) Ford won the 1961 World Series MVP. In addition to Yankee Stadiummarker, Ford also pitched World Series games in seven other stadiums:



Ford appeared on eight AL All-Star teams between and . One NL batter who was always happy to see him was Willie Mays, who once had seven consecutive hits off Ford.

Retirement

Ford ended his career in declining health. In August , he underwent surgery to correct a circulatory problem in his throwing shoulder. In May , Ford lasted just one inning in what would be his final start, and he announced his retirement at the end of the month at age 38.

Ford wore number 19 in his rookie season. Following his return from the army in , he wore number 16 for the remainder of his career. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Famemarker in with his longtime pal and Yankee teammate Mickey Mantle; at that time, the Yankees retired his number 16. On August 2, 1987, the Yankees dedicated plaques for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium for Ford and another left-handed pitcher who reached the Hall of Fame, Lefty Gomez; Ford's plaque calls him "[o]ne of the greatest pitchers ever to step on a mound."

After his career ended, Ford admitted to occasionally cheating by doctoring baseballs in various ways, such as the "mudball," which could only be used at home in Yankee Stadium: Yankee groundskeepers would wet down an area near the catcher's box where Yankee catcher Elston Howard was positioned; pretending to lose balance on a pitch while in his crouch and landing on his right hand (with the ball in it), Howard would coat one side of the ball with mud. Ford would sometimes use the diamond in his wedding ring to gouge the ball, but he was eventually caught by an umpire and warned to stop; Howard then sharpened a buckle on his shinguard and used it to scuff the ball. In an interview at the last game at Yankee Stadium, Ford admitted to doctoring the ball in the 1962 All Star Game at Candlestick Park to strike out Willie Mays. Ford had a vested interest in doing so; Ford and Mantle had accumulated $800 ($ in current dollar terms) in golf green fees, which the Yankees owner had agreed to cancel if Ford could strike out Mays.

In 1977, Ford was part of the broadcast team for the first game in Toronto Blue Jays history. In , Ford ranked 52nd on The Sporting News list of Baseball's Greatest Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 2003, Ford was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. In , Ford threw the first pitch at the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. On September 21, 2008 Ford and Yogi Berra were guests of the broadcast team for the final game played at Yankee Stadium.

Legacy

In 1994, a road in Mississaugamarker, Ontariomarker (Canadamarker) was named Ford Road in Ford's honor. This was in the north-central area of Mississauga known informally as "the baseball zone", as several streets in the area are named for hall-of-fame baseball players. [51718]

In a 1997 episode of The Simpsons, "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson", an animated Ford, who was in the process of "pleading with the crowd for some kind of sanity", was knocked unconscious by a barrage of pretzels at a baseball game after a 1997 minivan was raffled away to seat 0001, occupied by Charles Montgomery Burns, causing a "black day for baseball". Homer later suggested that Marge call her pretzels "Whitey Whackers."

In 1998, Grammy Award winning musician Everlast scored great success with his CD entitled Whitey Ford Sings the Blues.

In 2001, Ford was portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall in the HBO movie, 61*, a Billy Crystal film centered around Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle's quest to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run record.

In 2002, Ford opened up "Whitey Ford's Cafe," a sports-themed restaurant and bar next to Roosevelt Field Mallmarker in Garden City, New Yorkmarker. A replica of the Yankee Stadium facade trimmed both the exterior and the bar, whose stool displayed uniform number of Yankee luminaries; replicas of Monument Park's retired uniform numbers lined the hallways, and widescreen TV were present throughout. Memorabilia featured Bill Dickey's signed glove and John Blanchard's '61 World Series bat, as well as assorted Mickey Mantle mementos, along with jersey tops of Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Al Leiter, and Lee Mazzilli. The main dining area housed a panoramic display of Yankee Stadium from the 1950s, specifically a White Sox–Yankee game with Ford pitching and Mickey Mantle in center field; the Yanks are up 2-0. Waiters and waitresses dressed in Yankees road uniforms, with Ford's retired No. 16 on the back. It lasted less than a year before it closed down.

Quotations

  • "I didn't begin cheating until late in my career, when I needed something to help me survive. I didn't cheat when I won the twenty-five games in 1961. I don't want anybody to get any ideas and take my Cy Young Award away. And I didn't cheat in 1963 when I won twenty-four games. Well, maybe a little."


See also



References

External links




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