Making it in New York requires talent and mental toughness. Doing it as a native New Yorker may require a double dose of each. One such person just left us at the age of 91. His name: Edward Charles "Whitey" Ford.
Born in Manhattan, Ford's family moved to the Astoria section of the borough of Queens. He grew up in a very ethnically mixed neighborhood. One of those kids was an older boy who was very musically gifted. His name was Anthony Benedetto, who would gain worldwide fame as singer Tony Bennett.
A Yankee fan growing up, Ford signed with the team for $7,000. It was in the minors where Ford got his nickname due to his light blonde hair. After three years plus in the minors, Ford was called up by the Yankees on July 1, 1950 wearing number 19. From there, he went 9-1 and helped the Yankees win the pennant.
He would start Game Four of the World Series at Yankee Stadium against the Philadelphia Phillies, the last Series that did not have any Black or Latino players on either side. Ford was one out away from a complete game shutout when left fielder Gene Woodling dropped a fly ball in the sun, allowing two runs to score.
When manager Casey Stengel came to take out Ford, the fans starting booing the young lefty as he left the field. He thought they were booing him, but they were booing Casey for removing him.
After missing 1951 and 1952 to serve in the U.S. Army, Ford rejoined the Yankees in 1953. This time he was wearing number 16. Casey would sometimes skip Ford to save him for games against tougher teams, even going so far as to not use him in Fenway Park. That's one reason his career win total is relatively small.
Ford would eventually establish himself as the ace of the staff. Because of his ability to stay calm in tight spots, teammate Elston Howard gave him the nickname "The Chairman of the Board".
He would be involved in a move that cost Casey Stengel his job as manager after losing the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he didn't start Ford until Game Three at Yankee Stadium. Many believe had Ford started three games, the Yankees would have won the Series.
In 1961 Ralph Houk replaced Stengel as manager, and one of the first things he did was start Ford every fourth day. This pleased the southpaw, as he would go 25-4 and win the Cy Young Award. In 1964, when Yogi Berra became manager, Ford took on the dual role of pitcher/pitching coach, going 17-6 in helping the Yankees win their 29th American League pennant.
Age and injury eventually caught up to Ford. After undergoing shoulder surgery in 1966, Ford came back in 1967. He started a game in May in Detroit against the Tigers. After the first inning, he walked off the mound, into the clubhouse, took off his uniform, and left a note for manager Ralph Houk indicating he was done.
Ford's lifetime mark of 236-106 gave him a winning percentage of .690, the highest for any pitcher in the 20th century. At the time of his retirement, he held the Yankee records for most career wins, shutouts, and strikeouts, as well as the World Series records for wins, losses, innings pitched, strikeouts, and consecutive scoreless innings.
In 1974, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside teammate Mickey Mantle. That year he also had his number 16 retired by the Yankees. This made him just the eighth person in team history to have his number retired by the team, and the first pitcher so honored.
In his play Hamlet, the title character is talking about his father the deceased king to Horatio when he said, "I shall not look upon his like again". When William Shakespeare wrote that, he could have just as easily been talking about Edward Charles "Whitey" Ford.