Glancing Back, and Remembering Whitey Ford
The 1960s were not particularly kind to baseball’s most legendary player.
First Roger Maris assaulted Babe Ruth’s supposedly “unbreakable” record for home runs in a season. In the same year that Maris hit 61 home runs, a Ruth pitching record, for consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the World Series, was being threatened by another Yankee.
From 1950-1960, Whitey Ford won 133 games for the Yankees, but wasn’t a 20-game winner until 1961. That season, at age 32, Ford was 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA. He was that season’s Cy Young pitcher.
Left-hander Whitey Ford, a Yankee starter for more than a decade, hit his peak in the early 1960s. From his rookie season in 1950 (9-1, 2.81 ERA) through 1960, Ford never won more than 19 games in a season. Yet he was one of the most effective and efficient starting pitchers in all of baseball. During the 1950s, Ford was 121-50 with a .708 winning percentage and a combined 2.66 ERA for the decade. He led the American League in earned run average twice during the 1950s (with a 2.47 in 1956 and a 2.01 in 1958).
Ford broke into the 20-game winner club in 1961, going 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA. That year Ford led the majors in winning percentage (.862) and innings pitched (283) to win the Cy Young award, which acknowledged him as baseball’s best pitcher. He followed that excellent season with four more strong campaigns: 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA in 1962, 24-7 with a 2.74 ERA in 1963, 17-6 with a 2.13 ERA in 1964, and 16-13 with 3.24 ERA in 1965.
Ford retired after the 1967 season with a .690 winning percentage, the highest of any Twentieth Century pitcher. He also holds the record for the lowest career ERA among post-World War II starting pitchers with 2.75. Ford was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.
In the 1960 and 1961 World Series, Whitey Ford went 4-0 and didn’t allow a single run. His 32 consecutive scoreless innings broke the record set by Babe Ruth in 1918.
One of Ford’s qualifications for entrance into the Hall was his sterling career record in the World Series. In 11 different Series, he won 10 games with a 2.71 ERA over 146 innings. Babe Ruth’s record for consecutive scoreless World Series innings pitched (29.2) was set in 1918 when Ruth was a member of the Boston Red Sox. Ford’s streak started in 1960, when he shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates twice. In the 1961 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Ford opened the Series with a two-hit, 2-0 whitewash, his third consecutive World Series shutout. He now had 27 consecutive scoreless innings, 2.2 behind the Babe.
Ruth’s record lasted until Game Four of the 1961 World Series. Ford pitched five more scoreless innings before he was forced to leave the game due to an ankle injury. Yankee right-hander Jim Coates finished the 7-0 shutout with four innings of scoreless relief, and Ford had the record at 32 consecutive scoreless innings – a record he extended to 33.2 innings in 1962, and still holds today.
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