Whitey Ford 1956 #240
by William Szczepanek
This Topps card #220 from 1956 of Whitey Ford was released after his AL MVP 1955 season for the Yankees, when he went 18-7 with 18 complete games. In 1956 Ford led the league in winning percentage (.760) and ERA (2.47). He was the ace of the staff during the glory years of the 1950s for the Yankees and played his entire 18-year career with them.
Whitey's lifetime .690 winning percentage puts him 4th overall. Spud Chandler of the 1930s Yankees had a .7171 percentage, but only 109 wins. Al Spalding was from the 1800s where he posted 54 wins in 1875 and Jon Lester is an active player with the Boston Red Sox with a .691 percentage with only 76 wins over 6 seasons and is still early in his career and unlikely to keep up that pace. So, Ford's .690 percentage is still considered the best in the modern era for someone with more than 300 decisions. With 236 wins, Ford's accomplishments are a representation of his pitching talent and the talent of the Yankees as a team, but his lifetime ERA of 2.75, the best of any starter after 1920, shows that he deserves the bulk of the credit. Remarkably his 236 wins are still a Yankee record.
"The Chairman of the Board" was a control pitcher with not much of a fastball who could field his position well. His delivery was compact and put him in good position to field the ball, which was depicted on his baseball cards, like this one from 1957 where he obviously poses after his delivery. His best year was probably 1961 when he won 25 and lost 4, which was good enough for the Cy Young Award. He was a lefty who could hold runners, setting a record in 1961 by going 243 consecutive innings without giving up a stolen base.
Edward Charles Ford came onto the scene with a splash in 1950 winning his first 9 games and won the AL Rookie of the Year Award. 1952 and 1953 were spent with the Army during the Korean war.
"Army life was rough. Would you believe it, they actually wanted me to pitch three times a week." ─ Whitey Ford
Prior to 1961, manager Casey Stengel would reserve Ford for starts against the best teams. Only once did Ford have greater than 30 starts in a season under Stengel. In 1955 he pitched 2 consecutive one-hitters. He never pitched a no-hitter.
In the 1950s if someone asked you during spring training who would be the starting pitcher in game 1 of the World Series, most would answer, "Whitey". Ford was a Yankee World Series mainstay, being the game one starter 8 times. In 1961 he bettered Babe Ruth's long standing record by going 33 2/3 innings without giving up a run. Ford still holds the record for most World Series wins with 10.
Ford was known to doctor the ball, often scuffing it or having his catcher, Elston Howard, apply mud to it, which was conveniently supplied by the Yankee groundskeepers behind the catcher's box.
"I never threw the spitter, well maybe once or twice when I really needed to get a guy out real bad." ─ Whitey Ford
Whitey Ford was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974 with his teammate Mickey Mantle.
You can check out Ford's statistics at Baseball Reference.com