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Selling a Ford.

During a rain-out at Yankee Stadium, the TV crew cut into a special documentary on the greatest pitcher the club had ever produced, Whitey Ford.

It was fascinating. Ford had been a little guy with immaculate control who rarely walked anyone, struck out more than he walked, gave up few hits and fewer runs, and wound up with one of the lowest earned run averages in the history of baseball.


His ERA and winning percentage were a little startling. He had broken into baseball at age 19, then pitched 13 years in a row with a winning record every year (1947-1960).

But it was a little weird. How could such a fantastic pitcher be unable to win 20 games in any of his first nine years in baseball?

Okay, now let us move up 45 years and listen to a pair of Yankee announcers tell us how it all had happened.

Their hero turns out to be the old manager of the team, Ralph Houk. Upon checking his pitching prodigy's mid-life career record one day, Houk was overwhelmed by the strange numbers. He finally called Ford in for a meeting.

"Whitey, you've been cheating yourself. You have not been letting out enough--giving yourself a chance to become a 20-game winner. What I'd like you to do is begin starting every four days instead of five.

"I am positive you can do it."

This was 1961. Ford pitched about 100 more innings than he had done all those years before--and wound up with a 25-4 record (.862). A tender arm put him back to 17-6 in 1962. But in 1963 he returned to form with a 24-7 season!

The recapitulation by the two brilliant announcers: "All of this goes to show you what can be accomplished by a brilliant manager who will do all the homework for his players."

We have no idea where the announcers got their Whitey Ford story and came to their conclusions.

In the late 1960's, our closest friend in the majors was Johnny Sain, the former Braves pitching great, who was the Yankees pitching coach at the time.

Over dinner with him one evening, we were treated to an anecdote about his prodigy, Whitey Ford.

"Whitey is one of the smartest people I know, but I always believed that he nursed his arm too much. One day I told him that I had been studying his stats and I was struck by their leanness--how few pitches he threw and how few games he started.

So I told him, "Whitey, you are a good, strong young pitcher with a lot of stuff and control, and there is no reason why you cannot pitch every fourth day rather than fifth. That would give you a lot more starts and make you a 20-game winner. How about giving it a try?"

So there you have the documentary of the Whitey Ford transformation. There were no miracles. Just a brilliant, totally Sain teacher at work.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Whitey Ford
Author:Masin, Herman L.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:You can have it all.
Next Article:Q & A on quickness & agility.

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