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'Chairman Of The Board': Yankees Great Whitey Ford Dies At 91

Whitey Ford
Whitey Ford Photo Credit: Bowman Gum

He won more World Series games than any other pitcher, retired with a winning percentage that remains a modern-day record and was the best hurler on what was baseball’s best team for years.

Hall of Famer Whitey Ford died Thursday at his Long Island home at 91, the New York Yankees announced Friday.

In a sad coincidence, New York City’s two greatest-ever pitchers – Ford and the Mets’ Tom Seaver – died less than six weeks apart.

Born on Oct. 21, 1928 in Manhattan, Edward Charles Ford grew up an only child in the same Astoria, Queens neighborhood as Tony Bennett.

The blond-haired Ford pitched his first game for the Bronx Bombers in 1950 after being signed as an amateur free agent out of high school for $7,000.

He won his first nine games and lost only one (in relief), had a 2.81 ERA and finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting before winning won the title-clinching game in the Yankees’ World Series sweep of the Phillies.

Ford spent the next two seasons in the Army before returning in 1953 to help the Yankees win their fifth straight championship.

In his 16 years with the team, the Yankees won six World Series titles and 11 American League pennants with Ford, who made eight Game 1 starts in the fall classic.

He won 10 World Series games, one of several prestigious records/

A 10-time All Star, Ford’s career record of 236-106 not only set a club victory record but also established an all-time best winning percentage of .690 with at least 300 career decisions.

He pitched 33⅔ consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series, breaking what had been Babe Ruth’s record. Ford still has the most fall classic starts, with 22, as well innings pitched (146) and strikeouts (94) in the WS.

On a team that was once considered as American as U.S. Steel, Ford was dubbed the “Chairman of the Board” – although it wasn’t clear whether he was given that nickname by teammate Elston Howard or legendary sports columnist Jim Murray.

He went 25-4 in 1961, winning both the Cy Young Award and the World Series MVP, amid what was a streak of five straight American League pennants.

Two years later, Ford went 24-7.

After surgery failed to correct circulation problems in his arm.

Ford pitched his final game in Tiger Stadium in Detroit in 1967.

Before leaving for the airport, he scribbled a note that he left in Manager Ralph Houk’s locker: “Dear Ralph. I’ve had it. Call you when I get home. Whitey.”

Major League Baseball inducted Ford and close friend Mickey Mantle into the Hall of Fame together in 1974. The Yankees retired Ford’s number 16 that same year.

The Chairman was a familiar presence at Yankees Old-Timers games, including the July 18, 1999 day that David Cone pitched a perfect game for the Bronx Bombers.

He also let fans in on an open secret in “Slick,” a 1987 joint autobiography with Mantle, when he revealed that he’d spit or rub dirt on or cut baseballs with a special ring, a belt buckle and a catcher’s shin guard late in his career.

Ford is survived by his wife of 69 years, Joan, son Edward,and daughter Sally Ann. His youngest son, Thomas, died of a heart condition in 1999.

He and Seaver joined a list of baseball greats who died this year – among them, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Al Kaline.

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