Hall of Fame left-hander Whitey Ford died on Thursday, the New York Yankees announced. Ford, who was surrounded by his family and was watching the Yankees' playoff game, was less than two weeks away from celebrating his 92nd birthday.
Major League Baseball released the following statement from commissioner Rob Manfred:
"Today all of Major League Baseball mourns the loss of Whitey Ford, a New York City native who became a legend for his hometown team. Whitey earned his status as the ace of some of the most memorable teams in our sport's rich history. Beyond the Chairman of the Board's excellence on the mound, he was a distinguished ambassador for our National Pastime throughout his life. I extend my deepest condolences to Whitey's family, his friends and admirers throughout our game, and all fans of the Yankees."
The Yankees released this statement, quoting managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner:
"Whitey's name and accomplishments are forever stitched into the fabric of baseball's rich history. He was a treasure, and one of the greatest of Yankees to ever wear the pinstripes. Beyond the accolades that earned him his rightful spot within the walls of the Hall of Fame, in so many ways he encapsulated the spirit of the Yankees teams he played for and represented for nearly two decades.
"Whitey was New York tough. When you couple that with his dedicated service to our country, a deep love for the only team he ever played for, six World Championships, and a genuine personality and charisma that showed throughout his life, it's no wonder he endeared himself as a legend to generations of Yankees fans everywhere.
"While there is comfort knowing Whitey was surrounded by his family at the time of his passing while watching his favorite team compete, this is a tremendous loss to the Yankees and the baseball community. We have lost our 'Chairman of the Board,' and we extend our deepest condolences to the entire Ford family."
Ford spent his entire 16-year career with the Yankees, beginning as a 21-year-old in 1950 and extending until he retired after the 1967 season at the age of 38. He appeared in 498 career games, compiling 236 wins, a 2.75 ERA (133 ERA+), a 1.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 57 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference's calculations.
Ford compiled those numbers despite missing two seasons (1951-52) while serving in the military. Some of his other accomplishments included winning the 1961 Cy Young Award; being named to 10 All-Star Games; and being part of six World Series-winning teams. He also won two ERA titles and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in '50 behind Boston Red Sox first baseman Walt Dropo. Ford was selected into the Hall of Fame in his second year on the ballot, in 1974, receiving 77.8 percent of the vote. The Yankees retired his No. 16 jersey that same year. (The Yankees, for their part, .)
Even now, Ford is the Yankees' all-time franchise leader in wins, innings pitched, and ERA+ among starting pitchers. He ranks second in strikeouts, behind Andy Pettitte, and second in Wins Above Replacement, trailing longtime closer Mariano Rivera. His 68 career winning percentage, meanwhile, is the fourth-best all-time, Yankees or otherwise.
Ford's start in Game 4 of the 1950 World Series had earned him the distinction of being the youngest pitcher to ever open a postseason game for the Yankees. That distinction had remained in place until, coincidentally, this week, when Deivi Garcia started Game 2 of the Division Series. Ford still possesses the World Series record for most consecutive scoreless innings, having thrown 33 between 1960-62.
Though Ford needed no other additional claims to fame, it's worth noting that he was the pitcher on the mound during the 1955 World Series when Jackie Robinson stole home. Ford later wrote in his autobiography that he had seen the film of the play approximately 50 times, concluding that "Robinson is out every time."