Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford
Born: October 21 1928 (1928-10-21) (age 89)
New York, New York
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
July 1, 1950
for the New York Yankees
Final game
May 21, 1967
for the New York Yankees
Career statistics
Win-Loss record     236-106
Earned run average     2.75
Strikeouts     1,956
  • New York Yankees (1950-1967)
Career highlights and awards
  • 8x All-Star selection (1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964)
  • 6x World Series champion (1950, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962)
  • 1961 Cy Young Award
  • 1961 World Series MVP
  • 3x AL TSN Pitcher of the Year (1955, 1961, 1963)
  • 1961 Babe Ruth Award
  • New York Yankees #16 retired
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg
Elected     1974
Vote     77.81 percent

Edward Charles "Whitey" Ford (October 21, 1928 - ) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who spent his entire 18-year career playing for the New York Yankees. Besides "Whitey," his nicknames included "Slick" and "Chairman of the Board."

Ford holds the record for most wins in Yankee history, and is best known by baseball fans for his low earned run average. His lifetime winning percentage was .690, he played in 11 World Series and set the record for most consecutive scoreless innings in the series.


Off the mound, Ford's carousing with Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin was legendary, and he, in many ways, symbolizes the excesses and good fortunes of the Yankees of the 1950s and 1960s.

Early life

Whitey Ford was born Edward Charles Ford on October 21, 1928, in New York City. At the age of five, his family moved to Astoria, a neighborhood of Queens in New York City, located just a few miles from Yankee Stadium. Although Ford was born during the Great Depression, he did not feel its impact. Ford was the only son of Jim Ford, an employee of Consolidated Edison, a power supply service, and his wife, a bookkeeper.[1] Ford's neighborhood consisted mainly of families that had migrated from Ireland, Italy, or Poland.

Ford stated in his book, "It was a close-knit community, kind of like one big family."[2] His neighborhood was often so congested that it was easy to gather kids for different sports—baseball, stickball, and football being the most commonly played. Growing up, Ford was in the shadows of not one, but three great baseball teams: The Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and the New York Yankees. He had been exposed mainly to the Yankees, often attending games at Yankee Stadium with his uncle. At the age of 13, he, along with his friends, formed an amateur baseball team called the 34th Avenue Boys. Five years later, he earned a spot on his high school baseball team, the Manhattan Aviation.

Ford was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1947, and played his entire career in a Yankees uniform. Ford claims, "I've been a Yankee for fifty-three years, and I'll be a Yankee forever."[1] He was given the nickname "Whitey" while in the minor leagues for his exceptionally blond hair.

Pitching career

Ford began his Major League Baseball career on July 1, 1950, 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.

In 1951 and 1952, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He rejoined the Yankees for the 1953 season, and the Yankee "Big Three" pitching staff became a "Big Four," as Ford joined Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, and Eddie Lopat.

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, which was essential because he did not have an overwhelming fastball. His ability to throw several other pitches effectively gave him pinpoint control. Nonetheless, Ford was an effective strikeout pitcher for his time, tying the then-AL record for six consecutive strikeouts in 1956, and again in 1958. Ford pitched two consecutive one-hit games in 1955, to tie a record held by several pitchers.

In 1955, he led the American League in complete games and victories. The following year he led the league in earned run average and winning percentage. Again in 1958, he sat atop the league in earned run average. In both 1961 and 1963, he was first in games won and winning percentage. Ford won the Cy Young Award in 1961; he likely would have won the 1963 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 1955, but this was before the Award was created.

Some of Ford's numbers 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 adept at keeping runners on base: He set a record in 1961 by pitching 243 consecutive innings without allowing a stolen base.

Ford won 236 games for New York (career 236-106), 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 lefthander on August 26, 2007.

Among pitchers with at least 300 career decisions, Ford ranks first with a winning percentage of .690. Among those with at least 200 decisions, only Pedro Martínez ranked ahead of him; at the end of the 2006 season, Martinez stood at .691. In 1958, his career record stood at 100-36, the highest percentage for a pitcher with at least 100 wins. Ford's career 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 114 percentage points higher than his team's 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 1920. Ford's worst-ever ERA was 3.24. (Hoyt Wilhelm, primarily a reliever during his career, leads all post-1920 pitchers in ERA at 2.52.) Ford had 45 shutout victories in his career, including eight 1-0 wins.

World Series

Ford's status on the Yankees was cemented by his appearances in the World Series. Ford was New York's Game One pitcher in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964 World Series.

1950 World Series Ford did not start until game 4, but earned the victory and clinched the series against the Phillies in the process.

1953 World Series Whitey Ford pitched in game four, earning the loss. He took the mound in game 6 and tossed seven innings of one-run ball but would have to settle for a no-decision. He pitched in the clinching game.

1955 World Series Five of the previous seven Brooklyn Dodgers' series defeats came at the hands of the New York Yankees. This year, however, proved to be different as the Bronx Bombers fell to the Dodgers. Ford pitched in game 1 and game 6 of the series, going 2-0. In game 1, he pitched 8 innings, allowing nine hits and five runs, but keept his team ahead throughout the game. After dropping three straight games, the Yankees went back to Ford in game 6, and Ford delivered with a four hitter, sending the series to a game seven.

1956 World Series In game 1, however, Ford was hammered for five runs, and a loss. He redeemed himself in game 3 tossing a complete game. The Yanks would go on to win in seven and reclaim the championship from their crosstown rivals.

1957 World Series Whitey Ford opened the series against the up and coming Milwaukee Braves with a complete game 3-1 victory. In game 5, Ford tossed seven innings of one run ball, but was bested by the Braves pitcher, losing 1-0. The Yankees would go on to lose in seven games to the Braves.

1958 World Series Ford opened the '58 Series with seven solid innings, but received a no-decision as the game went into extra innings. In game 4, Ford tossed seven innings of three run ball; however, his counterpart tossed a shutout, earning Ford the loss. He took the mound in game 6, but managed to last only one inning, allowing five hits and two runs before being replaced. The Yankees would go on to win the series, however, in seven games.

1960 World Series In the 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Stengel held Ford back until Game 3, a decision that angered Ford. The Yankees' ace won both his starts in Games three and six with complete-game shutouts. As a result, Ford was unavailable to relieve in the last game of a surprising Yankees loss at the hands of Bill Mazeroski. He hit a 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 apparently agreed: Stengel was fired following the Series.

1961 World Series Ford tossed a two-hit, complete-game to open the '61 Series against the Cincinnati Reds. In game 4, Ford, combined with Yankee relievers, tossed a shutout, and brought the Yanks one win away from another series title. The Yankees would defeat the Reds in five games.

1962 World Series Ford opened the series with a complete game, 2-run spectacle. He pitched again in game four; but received a no-decision in the Yankees loss. Ford allowed five runs in game 6, allowing the Giants to send the series to a game seven—a Yankee victory.

1963 World Series Ford was dominated thoroughly by Sandy Koufax as he dropped the first game of the series for the Yanks. In game 4, he pitched better, allowing 2 runs over seven innings; however, he was again outmatched by Koufax, 2-1, absorbing his second loss of the series, and a Dodgers sweep of the Yanks.

1964 World Series Ford lost his third consecutive World Series start to open the series against the St. Louis Cardinals. This would be Ford's last World Series appearance as he succumbed to a shoulder injury.

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, and stood for four decades until Mariano Rivera broke it in 2000.) Ford won the 1961 World Series MVP.

Ford also appeared on eight AL All-Star teams between 1954 and 1964. One NL batter who was always happy to see him was Willie Mays, who at one point had seven consecutive hits off Ford.

Preceded by:
Lemon & Wynn
Estrada & Perry
Ralph Terry
American League Wins Champion
1955 (with Lemon & Sullivan)
Succeeded by:
Frank Lary
Ralph Terry
Chance & Peters
Preceded by:
Billy Pierce
Bobby Shantz
American League ERA Champion
Succeeded by:
Bobby Shantz
Hoyt Wilhelm
Preceded by:
Vern Law
Cy Young Award
Succeeded by:
Don Drysdale
Preceded by:
Bobby Richardson
World Series MVP
Succeeded by:
Ralph Terry
Preceded by:
Bill Mazeroski
Babe Ruth Award
Succeeded by:
Ralph Terry


Ford ended his career in declining health. In August 1966, he underwent surgery to correct a circulatory problem in his throwing shoulder. In May 1967, Ford lasted just one inning in what would be his final start, and he announced his retirement at the end of the month.

In 498 games, Ford had a 236-106 record, a .690 winning percentage, and a 2.75 ERA. He recorded 45 shutouts and struck out 1,956 hitters while walking 1,086 in 3,170 innings. When he retired, he held World Series records for most games, 22; most wins, 10; most losses, 8; most innings, 146; most strikeouts, 94; and most walks, 34

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.


Ford wore number 19 in his rookie season. Following his return from the army in 1953, he wore number 16 for the remainder of his career. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1974 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 "one of the greatest pitchers ever to step on a mound."

Whitey Ford's number 16 was retired by the New York Yankees in 1974

In 1994, a road in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada) was named Ford Road in his 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.[3]

In 1999, Ford ranked number 52 on The Sporting News list of Baseball's Greatest Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

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 1961 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 Mall in Garden City, New York.[4] A replica of the Yankee Stadium facade trimmed both the exterior and the bar, whose stools displayed uniform numbers of Yankee luminaries; replicas of Monument Park's retired uniform numbers lined the hallways, and widescreen TVs were present throughout. Memorabilia featured Bill Dickey's signed glove and John Blanchard's 1961 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.[5] It closed after less than a year of being opened.

In 2003, Ford was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2008, Ford threw the first pitch at the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.


In July 2008, Ford put 100 of his mementos up for sale at an auction of baseball memorabilia.

The items included his 1950 road jersey (estimated value, $40,000 to $50,000), his 1961 World Series Most Valuable Player award ($40,000 to $50,000) and a baseball signed by President John F. Kennedy ($30,000 to $40,000).

The auction was part of the events surrounding the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Arthea Nolan, Whitey Ford (New York: Rosen Central, 2004, ISBN 0823937844).
  2. Whitey Ford and Phil Pepe, Slick: My Life in and Around Baseball (New York: Dell, 1987, ISBN 044020108X).
  3. Google Maps, Ford Rd. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  4. Local.yahoo.com, Details of Whitey Ford's Cafe. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  5. Peter M. Gianotti, Review of White Ford's Cafe, Exploreli.com. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  6. Erin Calabrese, Bidder Up for Ford. Retrieved September 20, 2008.


  • Coverdale, Miles. 2006. Whitey Ford: A Biography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0786425148.
  • Ford, Whitey, and Phil Pepe. 2001. Few and Chosen: Defining Yankee Greatness Across the Eras. Chicago, Ill: Triumph Books. ISBN 157243418X.
  • Ford, Whitey, and Phil Pepe. 1987. Slick. New York: W. Morrow. ISBN 0688066909.
  • Ford, Whitey, Mickey Mantle, and Joseph Durso. 1976. Whitey and Mickey: A Joint Autobiography of the Yankee Years. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0670763942.
  • Nolan, Arthea. 2004. Whitey Ford. New York: Rosen Central. ISBN 0823937844.
  • Shapiro, Milton. 1962. The Whitey Ford Story. New York, J. Messner. OCLC 1301020.

External links

All links retrieved November 8, 2013.


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