Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Number of Days Until Spring Training: Whitey Ford (#16)

Whitey Ford grew up in Astoria, Queens and went on to spend his entire 18 year career in Pinstripes. Ford compiled a career record of 236-106 with a ERA of 2.75. Ford's 236 wins for the Bombers ranks as the most ever and his .690 winning percentage is the highest among all pitchers with at least 300 decisions. Ford was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1974 with his friend and teammate, Mickey Mantle.

The “Chairman of the Board” made his major league debut on July 1, 1950 and went on to win his first nine decisions en route to being named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year. In 1951 and 1952, Whitey left the team to serve in the Army during the Korean War and when he returned in 1953 joined a staff of Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, and Eddie Lopat.

Ford became the ace of the staff and in 1955 Ford went on to an 18-7 record while pitching 18 complete games with a 2.63 ERA. However, 1956 was an even better year – he was 19-6 with a 2.01 ERA. Whitey pitched well over 200 innings almost every season and never had an ERA over 3.24. He made the All-Star team eight times and was a six-time World Series Champion.

The Yankees won the pennant 11 times over his career and Ford won a record ten World Series games in addition to holding almost every other World Series pitching record. In Ford’s eight World Series losses, the offense provided an average of just 2.25 runs and were shut out twice.

Whitey was a small guy and didn’t throw the hardest but he controlled games with pin-point accuracy and earned his nickname for his ability to stay calm under pressure. Ford was one of many pitchers of his time to doctor baseballs and, according to Wikipedia, doctored a ball in the 1962 All-Star game to strike out Willie Mays. Ford and Mantle had amassed $800 in greens fees which the owner agreed to cancel if Ford could strike out Mays.

The same year Whitey was inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Yankees retired the number 16, and later dedicated a plaque in Monument Park to him which states Ford was “one of the greatest pitchers ever to step on a mound”.

In addition to being one of the greatest Yankees pitchers ever, he was also one of my father’s favorite Yankees (along with Mantle) and my first baseball glove was a Whitey Ford model given to me by my dad.

One of the highlights of the final game at The Stadium was seeing Ford and Larsen scooping up dirt from the mound.

It would be tough to argue the Yankees ever had a starting pitcher as dominant, especially over such a long career. Though different in every aspect, let’s hope our new, larger lefty can approximate his regular season production, and maybe even win a few World Series games, like Whitey did.

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