Whitey Ford, Hall of Fame ace for mighty Yankees, died at 91

NEW YORK (AP) - At a time when the Yankees were so routinely winning the World Series that it was joked that rooting to them was like rooting to General Motors, their Asskrug had the most apt nickname: "The Chairman of the Board of Directors ".
Whitey Ford, the street-savvy New Yorker who had the highest percentage of profits of any pitchers in the 20th century and who helped the Yankees become baseball's consistent champions in the 1950s and 1960s, died Thursday night. He was 91 years old.
The team said Friday the Hall of Famer died at his Long Island home in Lake Success, New York while watching the Yankees in a playoff game. His 69-year-old wife, Joan, and family members were with him.
Ford had suffered from the effects of Alzheimer's disease for the past several years. His death marked the last of a number of baseball greats that year - Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, and Bob Gibson.
In a franchise long defined by powerhitters, Ford was considered the biggest starting pitcher. He has the most victories in Yankees history and still holds the record for World Series wins.
Not big and not overwhelming, the cunning left-hander played in the majors from 1950 to 1967, all with the Yankees, and won six championships with Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.
"If you were a bettor and if he was out there for you, you'd think it was your day," former teammate and World Series MVP Bobby Richardson told The Associated Press on Friday.
Ford won 236 games and lost just 106, a gain of 0.690 percent. It would help symbolize the Yankees' almost machine-like efficiency in the mid-20th century, when they failed the World Series only twice between Ford's rookie year and 1964.
"This is one of the guys that is a Mount Rushmore guy in the Yankee organization," said manager Aaron Boone.
The blond-haired Ford was called "Whitey" in the minor leagues and quickly made it to the hill at Yankee Stadium.
His death came in a month when he rose to the top of the baseball arena for so long and hours before his former team played Tampa Bay in a crucial Game 5 of the AL Division Series. The Yankees were planning a patch with Ford's # 16 on their uniforms.
"He would have been the starting pitcher in this game for the Yankees in recent years," said Richardson.
The World Series record book is full of Ford's accomplishments. His run of 33 consecutive scoreless innings from 1960-62 broke a record of 29 2-3 ​​innings set by Babe Ruth. Ford holds records for World Series wins (10), games and starts (22), innings (146) and strikeouts (94).
"I've seen him a lot from the other side," said 93-year-old Carl Erskine, whose Brooklyn Dodgers faced the Yankees many times in October. "It's a shame for us, Whitey and these guys won most of the games."
Mariano Rivera, the only player unanimously elected to the hall, set the postseason record for consecutive innings - much of it in the AL playoffs.
"Whitey has earned his status as the ace of some of the most memorable teams in the rich history of our sport," said Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. "Aside from the CEO's outstanding performance on the hill, he's been a respected ambassador for our national pastime all his life."
Ford died on the 64th anniversary of the greatest pitching achievement in Yankees history - Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Larsen died on New Years Day that year.
Ford also made October 8 a special day, beating Ruth's mark for consecutive innings that day in the 1961 series. Ford was the MVP of that fall classic, beating Cincinnati twice.
"Mickey was injured and we had a lot of backups against the Reds," teammate Tony Kubek told The Associated Press. "We won this because of Whitey's pitching."
Ford was in his mid-twenties when he became the contact person in Manager Casey Stengel's rotation. The pitcher Stengel said he would always turn to him if he absolutely had to win a game. Ford was Stengel's decision to throw the World Series opener eight times, another record.
Ford's best season was in 1961 and 1963, amid a stretch of five straight AL pennants for the Yankees, when new manager Ralph Houk began using a four-man rotation instead of five. Ford led the league with 25 wins in 1961, won the Cy Young Award and played in the World Series. In 1963 he went 24-7 and again led the league in victories. Eight of his wins that season came in June.
He led the AL in 1956 (2.47) and 1958 (2.01) on the earned run average and was an All-Star in eight seasons.
Ford had its World Series disappointments. He spoke bitterly of the 1960 championship when he knocked out Pittsburgh twice but was used by Stengel in Game 3 and Game 6 and was therefore unavailable for the final. The Pirates won 10-9 on Bill Mazeroski's homerun at the end of the ninth. In 1963, Ford was beaten twice by Sandy Koufax when the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Yankees.
Ford was 10-8 with a 2.71 ERA overall in the World Series. His last appearance there was the beginning in 1964, when he lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, who took the title behind Gibson.
Unlike Gibson and Koufax, Ford was not a power pitcher. Instead, he relied on deceit and courage and rarely gave hits on successive fields the same look. Sometimes he threw the upper hand, sometimes three-quarters of the way, mixing curves and sliders with his fastball and his move.
Ford would also appreciate using some specialized methods to add movement to its pitches, including saliva, mud, and dirt, and cutting the ball with a ring.
"If there are some pitchers that do that and get away with it, that's fine with me," Ford told sports journalist Phil Pepe in 1987 to keep me in the big leagues on a salary of about $ 800,000 a year. I would do anything I had to do "
After his retirement, Ford worked briefly as a broadcaster and opened a restaurant in Garden City, "Whitey Fords Cafe", which closed within a year. In 2001, actor Anthony Michael Hall played Ford in the Billy Crystal-directed HBO film "61 (Asterisk)" about the 1961 season and Mantle and Roger Maris' quest to break Ruth's year-long home run record.
Ford and Mantle were cultural opposites, a strange couple inseparable from the field, Ford, the quick-talking city kid, Mantle, the shy fellow countryman from Oklahoma. They enjoyed the appeal of New York nightlife along with the loud, smart infielder Billy Martin and Stengel, who called the trio "Whiskey Slick".
Mantle shortened this to "Slick" for Ford, who proudly used the nickname as the title of his 1987 autobiography, co-written by Pepe. (Ford, in turn, would coin one of baseball's most famous nicknames, "Charlie Hustle," for Pete Rose).
Typical of their adventures was an episode during a trip to Japan in which they met a £ 400 sumo wrestler who was accompanied by a translator. During the evening the wrestler never spoke, just smiled and nodded.
Then it occurred to Martin that it might be fun to insult the wrestler. Her new friend continued to nod and smile. Then, when the evening was over, Martin said goodnight in Japanese and the wrestler nodded and said, "Thank you for a great evening" in perfect English.
It was a lesson in international diplomacy.
Ford's son Eddie played shortstop when Richardson was the head coach at the University of South Carolina.
"Sometimes when we were in a crisis, Whitey offered to come down and take the boys out and make them nice and relaxed," Richardson recalled with a chuckle. "I said," Oh, Whitey, we can't have any of this. "
Kubek recalled being invited to a nightspot on Rush Street with Ford, Mantle and Martin during his 1957 rookie season on the Yankees' first trip to Chicago. After dinner, the three Yankees veterans excused themselves from the table for various reasons.
“The maitre d 'comes over and gives me the bill. It was over $ 100. I was embarrassed, I had to tell him that I didn't have the money, ”said Kubek. "Then Whitey comes back and laughs, he prepared the whole thing."
“He was like a little gremlin. There was a little bit of Irish in him. He had a pixie-ish sense of humor, ”he said. “But on the hill he was all business. And if you ever made a mistake, it wouldn't give you the look some pitchers do. He would just go out and get the next dough. "
After Martin was traded after a 1957 Copacabana nightclub brawl, Ford and Mantle remained centerpieces of the Yankees dynasty and were jointly elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Ford often called his election the high point of his career, which became more meaningful because he was inducted with Mantle, who died in 1995.
"It was never something I thought I could or grew up on as a kid on the sidewalks of New York," he wrote in his autobiography. "I never thought that I would make it as a kid because I was always too small."
The Yankees withdrew its # 16 the month Ford was admitted to the hangar. He wore the number 19 as a newbie and then changed it.
Edward Charles Ford was born on the East Side of Manhattan, about 100 blocks south of Yankee Stadium. He grew up playing Sandlotball in Astoria, Queens, a neighborhood where great leagues Sam Mele and Tony Cuccinello and singer Tony Bennett performed.
The Yankees signed with Ford in 1947, and three years later he was called up in the mid-season. At only 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Ford was seen as a marginal prospect. But he won nine games in a row, and beat Philadelphia in 1950 by winning the fourth game that came within one of a full game.
After two years of military service during the Korean War - he remained in the Army - Ford returned to the Yankees in 1953 and, along with Mantle, became the core of a team that won 10 American League pennants and five World Series pennants over the next 12 years. Ford won 18 games back in its first season and never won less than 11 for 13 consecutive seasons.
Mantle summed it up: “It was the best mug I've ever seen and the biggest competitor. Whitey won seven out of ten decisions, and no one in the history of baseball has ever done better. "
Ford's death leaves Bobby Brown, who won four series titles with the Yankees in the 1940s and 1950s, as the last living link with prominent Yankees who played with both DiMaggio and Ford. Brown is 95.
In addition to his wife and son Eddie, Ford has a daughter, Sally Ann; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Ford's other son, Thomas, died in 1999.
This story was mainly written by former AP Sports writer Hal Bock. AP National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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