The "Chairman of the Board," Whitey Ford was the ace pitcher for the 1950s Yankees. His .690 winning percentage is the best of any modern 200-game winner, as his teams won 11 pennants and six World Series. Ford captured 15 Series records, including a streak of 33 scoreless innings.
Whitey Ford pitched for 11 pennant winners in his first 13 seasons.
Born in 1928, Edward Charles Ford grew up in New York City. He started pitching only as a senior in high school. The Yankees discovered him in 1946 playing in the sandlot Queens-Nassau League after high school, but they had to outbid the Red Sox and the Dodgers to the tune of $7,000 for Ford's services. He started his minor-league career in 1947 by notching a 13-4 record, he was 16-8 in 1948, and he led the Eastern League with a 1.61 ERA while going 16-5 in 1949.
Ford was summoned to New York in mid-1950 after a 6-3 start in the American Association. He teased New York fans with a brilliant 9-1 record in 12 starts and a near shutout in the World Series. He then served two years in the military, leaving behind the greatest of expectations. When he returned in 1953 he more than measured up, with a record of 18-6 as the Yankees won their fifth straight championship.
Whitey didn't just win, he won spectacularly. During his first 14 seasons, only twice did he post a record that was as low as three games over .500, and in 12 seasons he was at least six games over .500. He led the AL with 18 wins and 18 complete games in 1955. In 1956, he had the league's best ERA at 2.47. Manager Casey Stengel didn't let Ford pitch more than 250 innings a season, using him mostly against first-division teams.
When Ralph Houk took the Yankees' reins in 1961, he unleashed Whitey, and he went an AL-top 25-4 with a league-high 39 starts and 283 innings pitched, winning the Cy Young Award. He had a 24-7 record in 1963, again leading the AL with 37 starts and 2691/3 innings pitched.
Ford was a superb craftsman with excellent control. He used several pitches. Although some weren't legal, the threat that he fixed some balls kept hitters guessing, helping him more than actually throwing doctored balls.
Whitey, his best buddy Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, and some of the other Yankees were well known about town. "When Whitey pitched he always felt like unwinding that night after the ballgame," Mickey Mantle said. He added that he was ready to celebrate if Whitey won the game. "Lucky for both of us, he won 236 games when he was pitching for the Yankees." Ford was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974, the same year as the Mick.
Here are Whitey Ford's major league totals:
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