Whitey Ford, the New York Yankees’ Hall of Fame left-hander who was celebrated as the Chairman of the Board for his stylish pitching and big-game brilliance on the ball clubs that dominated baseball in the 1950s and early ’60s, died Thursday night at his home in Lake Success, New York, on Long Island. He was 91.
The Yankees announced his death.
Pitching for 11 pennant winners and six World Series champions, Ford won 236 games, the most of any Yankee, and had a career winning percentage of .690, the best among pitchers with 200 or more victories in the 20th century.
He was a scrappy, rambunctious, fair-haired son of New York City – hence the nickname – and through the decades a beloved one, as loyal to Yankee pinstripes as his most diehard fans.
“I’ve been a Yankee fan since I was 5 years old,” Ford said at his Hall of Fame induction at Cooperstown, New York, in 1974.
He was among the biggest names on Yankee teams featuring Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Roger Maris. And he joined Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Rizzuto among the revered figures who spent their entire playing careers with the Yankees. The team retired his No. 16 and mounted his plaque beside theirs in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
Methodical on the mound, Ford was irrepressible off it. He joined with Mantle and Billy Martin for late nights on the town, inspiring long-time Yankee manager Casey Stengel to call them the Three Musketeers.
With the passing of DiMaggio and Mantle, Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium became very much the Whitey and Yogi show. Ford and Berra, his catcher and baseball’s philosopher, were the celebrity elders of the hour. (Berra died in 2015 at 90.)
It was in retirement, too, that Ford acknowledged what had been widely suspected: He sometimes doctored the baseball.
Ford held a number of still-standing World Series records, among them 33 2/3 consecutive innings of scoreless pitching.
Edward Charles Ford was born Oct. 21, 1928, on the East Side of Manhattan, the only child of Jim and Edna Ford. His father worked for Con Edison and played on its semi-pro baseball team, and his mother was a bookkeeper at an A&P grocery. He grew up in the Astoria section of Queens, idolizing DiMaggio.
In April 1946, his senior year, he attended a tryout at Yankee Stadium. In October 1946 the Yankees gave him a $7,000 bonus as a pitching prospect.
After 3 1/2 years in the minors, Ford made his Yankee debut July 1, 1950. He won nine straight games.
He was at his best in the World Series, his records including most victories (10) and most strikeouts (94) along with his 33 2/3 straight scoreless innings.
In 1961, Ford won 14 consecutive games, posted a 25-4 record and captured the Cy Young Award as baseball’s best pitcher.
He was 24-7 in 1963, his last outstanding season.
Ford added pitching-coach duties in 1964.
He was plagued by arm problems in 1966, and he retired in May 1967 after going 2-4.
Ford had an ERA below 3.00 in 11 separate seasons and pitched 45 shutouts. He was an eight-time All-Star and posted the American League’s lowest ERA in 1956 and 1958. He led the league in victories three times (1955, 1961 and 1963), and he had the best winning percentage three times (1956, 1961 and 1963).
He had a career record of 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA.
Ford’s survivors include his wife, Joan (Foran) Ford; their son Eddie; their daughter, Sally Ann Clancy; and grandchildren. Another son, Tommy, died in 1999.