Whitey Ford, a Hall of Fame pitcher who helped the New York Yankees win six World Series titles and 11 American League pennants in the 1950s and 1960s, has died. He was 91 years old.
The Yankees said onTwitter that Ford had passed away, but didn’t provide further details. He was treated for prostate cancer in the 1990s.
A lefthander, Ford was known as “chairman of the board” for being a fixture, along with outfielder Mickey Mantle, on Yankees teams that dominated their era. Ford holds seven World Series records, including most wins (10), most strikeouts (94) and most opening games started (eight), as well as most losses (eight).
“Whitey Ford was the greatest World Series pitcher I ever saw, because he was so calm and cool and such a positive thinker,” wrote Yogi Berra, who caught and later managed him. “They said he had ice water in his veins because nothing ever fazed him. He had confidence and cockiness. He was flip and funny off the field, but on it he was deadly serious and self-assured.” Berradied in 2015.
As for the regular season, Ford’scareer record of 236 wins and 106 losses gave him a .690 winning percentage, the best of any Major League Baseball pitcher with 200 or more wins.
The 5-foot-10-inch, 181-pound Ford used finesse and pinpoint control to record a career earned run average of 2.75. He pitched 156 complete games, including 45 shutouts, and was a 10-time All-Star.
His No. 16 was the first uniform number of a pitcher to beretired by the Yankees. He left baseball after an abbreviated season in 1967 and wasinducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.
Edward Charles Ford was born on Oct. 21, 1928, in Manhattan, about five miles south of Yankee Stadium, and grew up in the borough of Queens. His Swedish-born mother, the former Edith Johnson, was a bookkeeper; his father, Jim Ford, worked for the electric company Consolidated Edison.
He earned money as a paperboy and immersed himself in stickball games on the streets of New York City, emulating Lou Gehrig. Playing first base at a mass tryout at Yankee Stadium in 1946, Ford caught the eye of Paul Krichell, the team’s chief scout, who had signed Gehrig and many other stars.
Krichell “asked me if I had ever pitched” and called in the Yankees’ bullpen catcher for some test throws, Ford recalled in a chapter for “Before the Glory,” a 2007 book.
Ford wrote: “Krichell was telling me I had a good, strong arm and that I should really try developing a curve ball. He showed me the way to hold it, and I threw a few. They were strikes. My control had always been good. They took my name and gave me a sandwich and a small container of milk.”
Awaiting a callback from the Yankees, Ford took a job in a Manhattan office mailroom and continued playing on the city’s sandlots. By the time Krichell called again, Ford had received offers from four teams, including the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers. Krichell agreed to top the other offers with a $7,000 signing bonus.
Ford joined the Yankees during the 1950 season and won his first nine decisions. He also picked up his first World Series victory, starting and winning the final game of the Yankees’ four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.
He left baseball for the next two years to serve in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He returned to win 18 games in 1953, another Yankee championship year. He pitched the first seven innings of decisive Game 6, as the Yankees beat the Dodgers.
His other titles with the Yankees came in 1956, 1958, 1961 and 1962.
Ford threw 18 scoreless innings in the1960 World Series, which the Yankees lost in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 1961, he won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in baseball, winning 25 games and losing four. He pitched 14 more scoreless innings in the Yankees’ World Series win over the Cincinnati Reds. Overall, from 1960 through 1962, he threw 33 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing a run in the World Series, breaking the mark of 29 2/3 innings set by Babe Ruth with the Boston Red Sox in 1916-1918.
In his 1987 autobiography, “Slick: My Life In and Around Baseball” written with long-time New York Daily News baseball writer Phil Pepe, Ford said he cheated in the last few years of his career.
In the book, Ford said that he rubbed mud on balls and once was warned by an umpire who caught him doctoring balls by scratching them with his ring.
“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 25 games in 1961,” Ford wrote in the book. “And I didn’t cheat in 1963 when I won 24 games. Well, maybe a little.”
Ford maintained a long affiliation with the Yankees, reporting regularly to spring training to coach and inspire young pitchers.
Ford and his wife, Joan, had three children, Eddie, Tommy and Sally Ann. Tommy died of a heart condition in 1999 at 44.
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