It’s really been a tough year for professional baseball. First, a cheating scandal involving one of the game’s top teams, the Houston Astros, led to the firing of three managers.
Next, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the schedule to be reduced from 162 to 60 games played with no fans in the stands for most teams.
Yet when baseball fans think back on the year 2020, it will be in remembrance of the legendary players we’ve lost. To date, six Baseball Hall of Famers have died this year, including Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, and most recently Joe Morgan.
Edward Charles Ford was 91 when he passed away on Oct. 8. New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan celebrated the funeral Mass at St. Mary, Manhasset, L.I.
Known as “The Chairman of the Board,” he played his entire 16-year career for the New York Yankees, where he made 10 All-Star appearances and was a member of six World Series championship teams.
Ford’s greatness began as a lefty pitcher for Immaculate Conception parish, Astoria. His ties to the diocese run even deeper, as he married his wife, Joan, at St. Patrick, Long Island City, in April 1951.
During his storied career in pinstripes, Ford amassed 236 wins, the most in franchise history, and 45 shutouts. In 1961, he won both the Cy Young Award and the World Series MVP, and in 1974, he earned his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese, pastor of Immaculate Conception, remembers being at Yankee Stadium as a kid on a Saturday before a game when Ford greeted him and about 100 other children in the box seats as part of a youth program sponsored by the team. He was so excited to see Ford in person.
“He (Ford) taught us how to throw a curveball and how to hold the ball and what the ball does,” Msgr. Ferrarese said. “He was one of the big stars of the Yankees. Whitey Ford was the king of the kings.”
In the franchise’s storied history, the long-tenured legends have mostly been offensive players: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, and so on. Ford though was a mainstay of Yankees pitching rotations in the 1950s and ’60s, turning in 13 straight double-digit win seasons from 1953 to 1965.
“I think as a starting pitcher, Ford has to be No. 1 in the Yankee tradition, if we separate starting and relief pitching,” said Father Richard Ahlemeyer, pastor of St. Camillus-St. Virgilius, Rockaway Park, who keeps a ball signed by Ford and Mickey Mantle — his childhood heroes — in his room.
“If you put them all together, you could get a fight over Mariano Rivera and his greatness over such a long period of time.”
Like all the Baseball Hall of Famers we’ve lost in this crazy year, Ford will surely be missed. These days, it’s very rare for a starting pitcher to spend his entire career with one team — and to be as successful as Ford.
That’s a legacy that Yankees fans won’t soon forget.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.