In my recent blog about the 1954 All Star Game, I wrote that New York Yankee manager Casey Stengel tapped Whitey Ford as the starter even though the lefty had pitched three innings of shutout relief the weekend before.
Ford didn’t disappoint either Stengel or his American League teammates. He shut the National League down with another three scoreless innings.
Whenever I’m asked who I would pick for to start a crucial game, Ford is always on my short list. Ted Williams thinks so, too. In Williams’ book, the Science of Hitting, he named Ford as one of his toughest foes along with Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, Eddie Lopat and Hoyt Wilhelm.
The Yankees called Ford up in mid-season 1950 to help out in a tight four team race that included the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers. Although Ford struggled in his first two starts, needing relief help in both, he recorded wins on July 17 and July 26, 4-3 against the Chicago White Sox and 6-3 against the St. Louis Browns
After returning to the Yankees in 1953 after two years in the U.S. Army, Ford dominated the American League.
For more than a decade the 5’10” 180-lb lefthander controlled games by mixing up his outstanding change up, curve and effective fastball. Ford had one of the league’s best pickoff moves and he was an excellent fielder.
By the time he retired, Ford had become known as “The Chairman of the Board,” not to be confused with the other chairman from nearby Hoboken.
Ford’s most prominent statistics are his consistently low ERAs and high winning percentages. In 11 of 16 seasons, he was under a 3.00 ERA and his worst was 3.24. His .690 winning percentage, higher than the Yankees’ team percentage for the same period, ranks first among modern pitchers with 200 or more wins. He allowed an average of only 10.94 base runners per nine innings and posted 45 career shutouts, including eight 1-0 victories.
During Ford’s 18-year career with the Yankees, the only team he played for, the Bronx Bombers won 11 pennants. He ranks first all-time in World Series wins (10), games and games started (22), innings pitched and strikeouts. In the 1960, ’61 and ’62 Series, Ford pitched 33- 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 29- 2/3.
Ford, 82, is a Baseball Assistance Team advisory board member. BAT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping former Major League, Minor League, and Negro League players with financial or medical difficulties.
“Double the fun” is a Friday feature here that looks at one notable doubleheader in baseball history each week.