Friday, October 29, 2010

#5 Whitey Ford : Lefties Unite!

   This Whitey Ford card was the first star card of the set and the first star card I owned because there was a double of it and I, being a kid, was allowed to handle the doubles and not just stare at them in the card album. I always hated having cards in albums.  Seeing them in there made the cards less interesting than a dull article about men's tennis in the Sporting News, well maybe not that bad...
    The value of research and blogging just crashed home with me because I always assumed that Topps printed this card by mistake. True, they did print an error on the card (see if you can spot it on the card back. Here is a hint, he fought in Korea and returned to the majors in 1953)but I thought Ford's career was over in '66. Thanks to this blog and my research, I learned that Ford played in '67 and while he didn't do much, hitters still couldn't figure out how to hit his pitches.
     Ford won only 2 games in his final 7 starts in '67 and one of those was a shutout. His ERA was a career best 1.64. he gave up only 8 earned runs in his final 44 innings. Few could ever do much against "The Charman of the Board" and I think Frank Sinatra was even flattered to be associated with Whitey Ford through that nickname.
    I never pitched but I always had a strong affinity to my lefthanded brothers and sisters. We are a group of people who are outnumbered 10 to 1 and are born facing those odds. In baseball, being a lefty is definitely NOT a handicap. On the contrary, it is an advantage.  When I played little league, few pitchers could ever find the plate when they saw someone standing on the side of the plate they were not used to. Even the right handed catcher couldn't return the ball back to the pitcher without smacking me in the helmet with the ball which did happen on one embarrassing occasion (was that embarrassing for me? or for the catcher?). Most of my little league career involved walks and to a lesser degree strikeouts. 
     Now that I am older, and have read a little more about baseball and baseball players, I understand this card better.
Jim Bouton wrote in his book Ball Four that Whitey Ford made it a point in Spring Training to always practice without his cap so that his face would get a good tan. He does look like he got a good tan and this picture was obviously taken during spring training; Ford is wearing his home pinstripes and the picture is not taken in Yankee Stadium. I am guessing that Ford is posing as though he just threw a two seamed fastball but that is only a guess. I only know of Ford for his deadly curveball.
The Yankees cards in this set, along with the Mets cards were the most striking cards to me because of the way the words looked on the front. The red letters literally jump out at you and that is also true with the Mets which is written in purple. I am sorry to say, that Ford's printed autograph on the front is likely as close to a real autograph I am ever to get from the man.
Throughout my youth, I met and got autographs from many ballplayers in card shows but I never had a chance to meet Whitey Ford because he didn't live in the Tri-State area. Ford continues to live and play golf regularly down in Florida.
Even though Ford was one of the big three partiers on the Yankees with Mantle and Martin (they were all best friends) I never thought of him as being that way. In interviews, he seems humble even a little shy about the attention he receives from his playing days. But perceptions can be wrong because Ford did once say that if he never played baseball, his ideal profession would have been a bartender.