LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. (AP) — Whitey Ford, the street-smart New Yorker who had the best winning percentage of any pitcher in the 20th century and helped the Yankees become baseball’s perennial champions in the 1950s and ’60s, has died. He was 91.
A family member told The Associated Press on Friday that Ford died at his Long Island home Thursday night. The cause was not known.
Nicknamed the “Chairman of the Board,” Ford was a wily left-hander who pitched from 1950-67 in the major leagues, all with the Yankees. He was among the most dependable pitchers in baseball history.
He won 236 games and lost just 106, a winning percentage of .690. He would help symbolize the almost machinelike efficiency of the Yankees in the mid-20th century, when only twice between Ford’s rookie year and 1964 did they fail to make the postseason.
Ford’s death is the latest this year of a number of baseball greats: Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.
The World Series record book is crowded with Ford’s accomplishments. His string of 33 consecutive scoreless innings from 1960-62 broke a record of 29 2-3 innings set by Babe Ruth. Ford still holds records for World Series games and starts (22), innings pitched (146), wins (10) and strikeouts (94).
Ford was in his mid-20s when he became the go-to guy in manager Casey Stengel’s rotation, the pitcher Stengel said he would always turn to if he absolutely needed to win one game. Ford was Stengel’s choice to pitch World Series openers eight times, another record.
Ford’s best seasons came in 1961 and 1963, in the midst of a stretch of five straight AL pennants for the Yankees, when new manager Ralph Houk began using a 4-man rotation instead of 5. Ford led the league in victories with 25 in 1961, won the Cy Young Award and was the World Series MVP after winning two more games against Cincinnati. In 1963, he went 24-7, again leading the league in wins. Eight of his victories that season came in June.
He also led the AL in earned run average in 1956 (2.47) and 1958 (2.01) and was a six-time All-Star selection.
Ford did have his World Series disappointments. He spoke bitterly of the 1960 championship, when he shut out Pittsburgh twice but was used by Stengel in Game 3 and Game 6 and so was unavailable for the finale, won 10-9 by the Pirates after a Bill Mazeroski home run in the bottom of the ninth. In 1963, Ford was outmatched twice by Sandy Koufax as the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Yankees.
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