Yankees History: The cagey and cunning Whitey Ford on the mound

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NEW YORK – JUNE 1: Whitey Ford poses for a portrait June 1, 1987 in New York City June 1, 1987. (Photo by Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images)
NEW YORK – JUNE 1: Whitey Ford poses for a portrait June 1, 1987 in New York City June 1, 1987. (Photo by Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images) /

Surprising to me and most Yankees fans, Whitey had to wait until his second appearance on the ballot before being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 by the BBWAA (with 77.81 percent of the vote). The Yanks retired his uniform number 16 in his honor in August of the same year. Most fans would agree that he was a major reason why the club performed consistently well in the 1950s and 1960s. The Yanks were quite fortunate to have him on the mound.

Oddly, Harold Friend argues that Whitey was an overrated pitcher because he “never started an ‘ultimate’ game. He never started a Seventh Game of a World Series.” Of course, as already noted, Stengel refused to start him in a Game 7 in 1955-1958 and 1960 because he was using him, rightly or wrongly, for certain matchups that he deemed were critical during those series. (The Yanks won 2 and lost 3 World Series in those five years.)

In 1962 and 1964, skippers Houk and Yogi Berra, respectively, also decided not to start him in Game 7. Instead, they used Ford in other important matchups during those two World Series, both of which went seven games. (The Yanks beat the San Francisco Giants in 1962 but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964.) Ford’s World Series performance speaks for itself, in particular, his record of 33 consecutive scoreless innings and his ten World Series game victories.

Why someone who is supposed to be knowledgeable about baseball would discount the role of a manager in strategizing who starts which games in a World Series and would criticize a player for never starting a Game 7, implying it was somehow the player’s fault, is inexplicable. At the same time, Friend ignores Whitey’s overall outstanding performance in World Series games, in general, and his regular-season record, in particular. Perhaps the writer has an ax to grind.

dark. Next. Yankees History: Mickey Mantle an American Icon and Hero

Whitey’s guile on the mound and his cagey and cunning pitching more than overcame his modest size and build. His success on the diamond demonstrates that one does not necessarily have to have a powerful arm to be an extremely effective pitcher in MLB.