Edward “Whitey” Ford – The Chairman of the Board

10 Jan

During the the dynasty years of the Yankees in the 1950’s there was no bigger “money game” pitcher in baseball than New York native Edward “Whitey” Ford. “Slick” as his was known to his teammates, most notably long time friend Mickey Mantle, was the southpaw that anchored the pitching staff of some of the greatest teams the game of baseball has ever seen. With a great array of statistics compiled over 18 seasons and a slew of World Series appearances, Ford was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. While that is all fine well to say, to truly understand how incredible he was one must take a closer look at his accomplishments.

The “Chairman of the board” ended his career with a record of 236-106 for a .690 winning percentage which is the highest of any pitcher in the twentieth century that made has a minimum of 100 wins. It also ranks as third all time, most all time against all pitchers with 200 or more wins. In addition to leading the league in wins three times, ERA once, and shutouts twice, Ford took home the 1961 CY Young Award, unbelievably his only one. Add that to a career ERA of only 2.75 and you have a legend. What earned Ford his reputation as a money pitcher however was they manner he took control of the World Series.

While some of his World Series records have fallen, there remain three which may never be broken. His marks of ten wins and 96 strikeouts may one day fall, although given the game today it is hard to imagine any pitcher getting enough opportunities. What seems most likely to never be broken however is his 33 2/3 scoreless innings streak. That is better than 4 1/2 consecutive complete game shutouts. It is hardly likely we will even see a pitcher throw four shutouts in their World Series career, much less more than 4 in a row. Consider also his record 22 games started as a pitcher and total appearances as a pitcher, which are still records, and it is likely he will continue to be regarded as the greatest World Series pitcher for a long time to come.

Ford, unlike many dominant pitcjers of the era, didn’t have the great fastball we so often think of an ace having. He istead controlled the game by using a variety of off-speed pitches he could command with amazing precision. As if that weren’t enough he had one of the best pick-off moves in the game just to further frustrate anyone that dared wander off base.He was considered one of the first of a new era of “thinking” pitchers that analyzed hitters rather than try to overpower them.He was quoted once as saying: “You would be surprised how many important outs you can get by working the count until the hitter is sure you are going to throw to his weakness, and then throw to his power instead.”

By the time he retired in 1967 he had already established himself as an astute businessman parlaying his fame in to numerous money making opportunities, many of which he is still involved in today. Ford didn’t make it to the hall of Fame on his first ballot, but when he went in with the player he considered his best friend, Mickey Mantle, in 1974 it just seemed right to all involved. Of course by this point in his life the long and wild nights on the town with Mickey were mostly behind him, he liked to joke retirement cut down on his carousing.

Whitey is still with us today regularly speaking and appearing at any number of functions, for a fee of course. While he isn’t out taking a bite out of the Big Apple as often as he used to, you can still be sure to see him hanging around Yankee Stadium whenever there is a big game. From the greatest money pitcher in World Series history, we could expect no less.

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