One of baseball's all-time great pitchers, "The Chairman of the Board",
Edwin Charles "Whitey" Ford says personal stats and awards weren't important.
It was team results that mattered. And through 16 New York seasons of the '50s
and '60s, Whitey's Yankees took the pennant 11 times and went on to win six
FORD: I've seen Mickey Mantle win a triple crown and get a 15-thousand dollar raise,
so no matter what your stats were it wasn't going to make you rich. The year after
the triple crown, he went from .360 to around .340 and they wanted to cut his salary,
so that's how they acted years ago.
The tremendous hitting support of those great Yankee teams was a big boost for the
pitchers, but Whitey says it was the club's defense that never got enough of the credit.
FORD: 1961 we had Boyer and Richardson at second, Kubek at short and Skowron at first.
Roger Maris was a great outfielder- nobody realized what a great ballplayer he was, and
Mickey in center. We had a good defensive baseball team and nobody ever talked about that.
They just talked about those 240 home runs we hit. But our defense was great.
The New York native says stories of his widespread practice of doctoring the ball is
FORD: That was just something we'd fool around with towards the end. I was trying to
stick around another year or two. And if you look at my record the last two years, I
think I was 2-4 and 2-5. The old chips in the elbow got to me finally. But when I
was having my good years I wasn't fooling around with any spitballs or mudballs
or cutballs or things like that.
And Whitey says his so-called nightly escapades with Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin
have been exaggerated over the years. The detective the front office assigned to watch
the trio for instance, lasted barely a season, not year after year.
FORD: Now, people hear that story and they think they had detectives following us for 18
years. This detective couldn't follow his mother home from church he was so dumb. I mean,
he was wearing white rabbit-skinned loafers. Everybody in Detroit knew he was a detective.
And we ditched him in like, two seconds- he couldn't find us. But a lot of that stuff was
overrated. You do not play in the big leagues for eighteen years and be successful, as
Mickey and I were..and Billy was as a coach and a manager by being out every night
drinking and carrousing. You just can't do it.
Ford was known as the "city slicker," the "cool cat" out on the mound. But he admits,
for those World Series games- where Whitey leads everybody all-time with ten victories-
he was just as jumpy as the next guy.
FORD: That was one time where I was nervous before every game. Even when you get out on
the field and started warming up before the games you started feeling better already. And
then, once you got out on the mound and the game started, you threw two or three pitches
and then everything falls in place, and you settle down.
Whitey still misses Billy Martin very much these days. Martin died in a truck accident
last year. The pair came up together as New York rookies 40 years ago and remained good
friends. Ford says Yankees stay closer than other teams after playing careers have passed.
Whitey hasn't missied helping out at Yankees spring trainings since 1953.
FORD: Mickey and I have a fantasy camp down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida three weeks of
the year. And we bring guys back like Hank Bauer, Moose Skowron, Enos Slaughter,
Jake Gibbs, Johnny Blanchard, and Ralph Houk. And we just have a ball for three weeks.
We stay very, very close.
Ford doesn't get upset with players making the money they do- better the players
getting it instead of the owners, he says. But he wants the old timers taken care of also.
FORD: I'm talking about the guys 70, 80-years old that are getting two, three hundred
dollars a month pension. And these guys nowadays moaning because they're only going to
get 90-thousand a year pension when they quit, after making big money as a player.
I can't believe a baseball union that has two or three or four hundred million in
excess can't do something for these guys. If the owners and players don't do
something about it, I'm going to be very angry.
New York Yankees great, Whitey Ford. Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.