New York Yankees: Looking back at famous Yankee players that have passed on this year (videos)

New York Yankees, Whitey Ford

For New York York Yankees fans, 2020 is a year we would all like to forget and not repeat. Number one was the coronavirus that ravaged so many Americans and still does. We have lost family members and friends to the dreaded virus. Many have lost jobs, and several of us are financially stressed. Hopefully, with vaccines coming online, 2021 will see a safer, healthier, and more prosperous year.  Although subjected to a short baseball season for relief, Yankee fans did find some pleasure in our favorite sports pastime even if we exited the postseason far too early.

2020 also marked a year when we lost many favorite players, some famous others not so much, but as we look back, we have fond memories of all of them for their play, their antics, and was downright fun to watch. Some even include Hall of Famers. Today we look back and remember some of them.

Don James Larsen August 7, 1929 – January 1, 2020

2020 started out with a New Years Day with the news that Don Larson had died overnight. Larson is a famous Yankees and a record holder in all of baseball, which is likely never to be repeated. He is the only pitcher ever to pitch a perfect game in the World Series.  On October 8, 1956, he pitched his perfect game against the then Brooklyn Dodgers. Larson was not the greatest pitcher for the Yankees and was used mostly by manager Casey Stengel as a spot starter and reliever, but on this one day, he reached the baseball history books.  From George Steinbrenner’s time, he made every Old Timer’s Day celebration at Yankee Stadium, much to the delight of Yankee fans.

Edward Charles Ford October 21, 1928 – October 8, 2020

“Whitey” Ford was one of the most popular New York Yankees ever when he pitched for the Yankees. Ford signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1947 he made his Major League debut in 1950. From then until 1967. He had a record of 236-106 over sixteen years, all with the New York Yankees, making him the most successful Yankee pitchers of all time, and that still stands. He was so good he was eventually called “The Chairman of the Board,” as named by famous Yankee catcher Elston Howard, a title that stuck until his death two weeks short of his 92nd birthday. Ford had eleven seasons of 16 or more wins. He has a monument in Yankee Stadium Monument Park, is a Cy Young Award winner, and is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of fame.

Philip Henry Niekro April 1, 1939 – December 26, 2020

Just one day after Christmas, we learned of the passing of Phil Niekro. Niekro had one of the longest pitching careers in baseball, pitching for 24 years, two of them with the New York Yankees. He earned his 300th win in those two years and went 32-20 over the two years with a 3.59 ERA. He was the second oldest pitcher ever to have a complete game. He is also the second oldest to have a shutout. He finished the 1985 season with a 16–12 record, the final time he won 15 or more games in a single season. From 1984 through 1985, he was one of the most popular of Yankee players. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Horace Meredith Clark June 2, 1939 – August 5, 2020

Horace Clark was a second baseman for the Yankees for then years, starting in 1965. Clarke made history, becoming the only big leaguer whose first two career homers were grand slams and becoming one of two players to break up three no-hitters in the ninth inning. Clarke wasn’t a great player, but he was a good solid player who played during the Yankees’ down years. However, because of those lousy teams, he never got the credit he deserved. He played all but one year of this career playing for the Yankees. He wasn’t the greatest hitter (.256) but was an excellent defender for the Yankees.

Robert Jose Watson April 10, 1946 – May 14, 2020

Bob Watson signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees after coming from the Red Sox. With the Yankees, he reached the post-season for the first time in his career, losing to the Royals. A year later, he reached the World Series for the first time. He hit two home runs and batted .318 with seven RBI’s in the Yankee’s loss to the Dodgers. But his claim to fame is not his playing days, which were pretty good too. He was the first and only black general manager in baseball. He was named the New York Yankees general manager in 1978 and won a World Championship.

Claudell Washington August 31, 1954 – June 10, 2020

Washington was a popular Yankee outfielder from 1986 to 1988. With the Yankees, he had a .277 batting average hitting 27 home runs. He hit the 10,000th home run in Yankee franchise history on April 20, 1988, facing Minnesota Twins pitcher Jeff Reardon in the ninth inning of a 7-6, 10-inning win in Minneapolis.

Several other Yankee players passed on this past year. The Yankees salute shortstop Tony Fernandez, one season 1995, he is one of only three Yankees to hit for the cycle. Outfielder Jimmy Wynn, one the year 1977. First baseman Hank Workman, one season 1950. Second baseman Damso Garcia, two seasons 1978-79. First baseman Bob Oliver, one season 1975. Pitcher Matt Keough, one season 1983. Pitcher Mike McCormick, one season 1970. Pitcher Jay Johnstone, two seasons 1978-79.

New York Yankee Legends: The Yankees suffer the loss of Whitey Ford (video)

Today, the New York Yankees morn the loss of a baseball season, but there will be others. More significantly, they morn the loss of not only a Yankee legend but a baseball legend that will never be replaced.  Yesterday, before the Yankee loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees learned that the great Whitey Ford had passed away at his Long Island home on Thursday night after an illness. Ford was 91 years old.

Yesterday, the Yankees had time to emblazon all the Yankee uniforms with the number 16, in tribute to Whitey Ford’s number. It was kind of ironic as the great Yankee pitcher spent his entire 16-year career with the New York Yankees.

For many of you aged one to fifty, you remember Whitey Ford as that old guy that showed up every year at the Yankee Old Timers Day celebration and game at Yankee Stadium. You watched him age through the years and last year, not take part in the celebration and game, but only stand atop the Yankee dugout and wave his cap to the crowd, but with thunderous applause.

New York Yankees, Whitey Ford
Jun 17, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees former pitcher Whitey Ford at the Old Timer’s Day ceremony at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

For me, as a young boy, I watched Ford pitch. It was a different time and a different atmosphere.  Today you can watch baseball 24/7. When I was a boy, you had to wait for the ABC game of the week or other nationally televised events. I remember clearing my chores so I could watch Whitey Ford pitch in that Sunday afternoon game. Back then, you read more about baseball than you saw games played. I was a New York Yankee fan when my Grandfather bought us our first television, and we watched together the 1951 World Series.

My baseball idols were Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Bobby Richardson, Mickey Mantle, and yes, Whitey Ford. Much like when Mariano Rivera took the mound in the ninth, you knew that the game was won. When Whitey Ford took the mound, you knew that he would win.  And that he did, Ford was the winningest Yankees pitcher ever (236), he also holds the record for the most Yankee shutouts (45). In the New York Yankees history, only Andy Pettitte started as many games, but Ford beats him out in innings pitched (3.170).

He was a Cy Young Award winner; he was a ten-time All-Star and six-time World Series champion. In 1961, a World Series Most Valuable Player. Ford led the American League (AL) in wins three times and earned run average (ERA) twice. In the past several years, we have lost many great Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Mel Stottlemyer, Yogi Berra, Don Larsen, and others, now we have lost the great Whitey Ford, but for those of us that watched him pitch, his memory will live on. 

Ford was a local boy, born in Queens just a few miles from the Bronx. As a child, Ford played baseball and stickball in the summer in the sandlots of the Queens, football in the fall, and roller hockey in the winter. During the summers, Ford and his friends played sandlot baseball until dark on fields next to the Madison Square Garden Bowl, about a mile from his home neighborhood. When not playing there, he and his friends would play stickball against a wall using a broomstick.

Several neighborhood fathers got together and bought uniforms for their sons. They organized a team for the 13-year-olds, called the Thirty-fourth Avenue Boys. The group stayed together for five years. Ford’s childhood baseball hero was Joe DiMaggio, who he got to see when he and his Father boarded the Subway for the trip to Yankee Stadium.

In Ford’s senior years of highschool In April 1946, he attended a Yankees tryout camp at Yankee Stadium as a first baseman. Paul Krichell, a Yankees scout, noticed Ford’s strong-arm during fielding practice. It was thought he was too small to play first base but had him throw a few pitches on the sidelines and showed him how to throw a curveball. He alternated every other game by pitching and playing at first base, in the summer after he graduated by playing with the Thirty-fourth Avenue Boys. The team went 36-0 to win the Queens-Nassau semipro league, with Ford winning 18 games without a loss when pitching.

Whitey was signed by the Yankees in 1947 as an amateur free agent and was assigned to the minor leagues. During this time, he got his nickname “Whitey” for his nearly albino blond hair. He made his major league debut on July 1, 1950, and let it be known that he was a force to be reckoned with. He won his first nine games in a row. He was named AL Rookie of the Year by sporting news. One thing most of today’s fans are not aware of is that his record would probably be even better, had Casey Stengel not saved him for the bigger games.

In 1951 Whitey would marry his wife, Joan. After the wedding, the Fords delayed their Florida honeymoon for three days so that Whitey could throw out the first pitch at the Yankees’ 1951 Opening Day in Yankee Stadium. They lived on Long Island and raised two sons and a daughter. After his first very successful first year with the Yankees, he served the next two years during the Korean War in the Army.

When returning to the Yankees in 1953, he showed he hadn’t lost any of his skills, going 18-6 on the year and pushed the Yankees to their fifth World Series win in a row. In 1954 the Yankees were loaded with great players and fully expected to win their sixth straight pennant and World Series. They won 103 games, more than in the past five seasons. But lost to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, who would lose the World Series to the Giants.

In 1955 Ford would go 18-7, but the Yankees would not win the World Series again. In 1956 Ford would pitch even better, going 19-6. Ford was 27 years old at the beginning of the 1956 season and started off winning his first six starts while giving up only five runs. He had a minuscule 0.83 earned run average. He would have had 20 wins, but when the Yankees clinched, he decided to forgo his start and save it for the World Series. The Yankee defeated the defending Brooklyn Dodgers in the Series.

The Yankees would again win the World Series in 1958 against the 1957 Champion Milwaukee Braves. In 1961 Whitey was to have his best season ever. He went 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA. He again would be an All-Star and would win his Cy Young Award. In early September, the Yankees held “Whitey Ford Day” before a game against Cleveland, in appreciation of his outstanding season and perhaps to make up for being overshaded by the home run race of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

The club showered him with gifts, including a six-foot package of Life Savers wheeled in from the bullpen. When it arrived on the mound, out popped the other top Yankee, Luis Arroyo. Ford took the joke all in good humor. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series in five games against the Cincinnati Reds, their 19th World Series win.

Ford had three nicknames; Whitey was one of them due to his light blonde hair. He was also called “Slick” by manager Casey Stengel. But the nickname that has always stuck is “The Chairman of the Board.” He got that moniker due to Stengel saving him for big games, and his ability to withstand high-pressure situations with an easy calm while remaining in complete control of a situation.

Ford would go on to have four more winning seasons, including another World Series win in 1962. the last success for the next 15 years. During his career, he had 13 seasons with eleven wins or more. His second best was the 24-7 season in 1963. He will go down in history as one of the greatest Yankee pitchers of all time.

“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,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “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.”

Thursday night, October 8, 2020, surrounded by family in Lake Success, New York, the great Whitey Ford, while watching the Yankees play on tv, passed away twelve days short of his 92 birthday. Whitey, may you rest in peace knowing that you were loved by Yankee fans everywhere.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. You can follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

 

 

 

New York Yankees’ legend Whitey Ford dies at 91

New York Yankees, Whitey Ford

In a very important day for the New York Yankees, as they prepare to play Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the icons of the franchise passed away.

Whitey Ford, also known as The Chairman of the Board, died. He was perhaps the greatest icon among Yankees’ pitchers, and he spent his entire 16-year career with the Bronx Bombers.

According to what a family member told The Associated Press on Friday, Ford died at his Long Island home Thursday night. The cause was not known. He was 91 years old.

Born as Edward Charles Ford, he earned the nickname “Whitey” and it stuck for his entire life. He was a mainstay in the rotation in the fifties and sixties, one of the most successful period in the New York Yankees’ history.

A true Yankees’ great

The left-hander finished his playing career with a 2.75 ERA and 3170.1 innings pitched. He was a six-time World Series champion (1950, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962) and won the Cy Young award in 1961, the same season that featured an unforgettable race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris for the home run record.

Whitey led the American League in ERA two times and in wins three times. He has been a proud Hall of Famer since 1974.

“The Yankees are incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Whitey spent his entire 16-year career as a Yankee. A 6x WS Champion and 10x All-Star, The Chairman of the Board was one of the best lefties to ever toe the rubber. He will be deeply missed,” the Yankees wrote in their Twitter account.

In 2020, we have lost several all-time greats, such as Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson. Our thoughts and condolences go to the Ford family in this difficult time.

New York Yankees: All-Time Starting Rotation and Bullpen

The New York Yankees have a great history of starting pitching and relievers. They arguably have the best closer of all time and a top 5 pitcher in the league every decade.

Ace: Whitey Ford

Ford won 25 games in his CY Young award-winning season, which is almost unreachable in this day and age. He was probably the most consistent pitcher in the 50s and never had an ERA over 3.24, helping him win the ERA title twice.

He was also a 10-time all-star, 6-time World Series champion, and even won a World Series MVP. A sure hall-of-fame player if the game has ever seen one.

2nd Starter: Vernon “Lefty” Gomez

The triple crown is usually associated with hitters, but Gomez won the triple crown for pitchers twice! In 1934 and 1937, he led the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts.

Gomez was also clutch when it counted, he did not lose a single postseason game in his career. This made him the main reason for the 5 World Series titles the Bombers won in the late ’30s.

3rd Starter: Ron Guidry

In 1978, Guidry had one of the best seasons ever for a pitcher. He won 25 games, had an astounding 1.74 ERA, and nearly 250 strikeouts. That is a type of dominance only a few pitchers have reached in their careers.

He was even a slick fielder throughout his career, earned himself 5 Gold Glove awards.

4th Starter: Charles “Red” Ruffing

Along with Babe Ruth, the New York Yankees stole another piece from the Red Sox, Ruffing helped them win 6 World Series and achieved 6 all-star appearances.

Ruffing and Gomez was a deadly one-two punch back then, both had 20-win seasons in the late ’30s. If they held their opponents to under 4 runs on average, them they were guaranteed to win a lot of games with Ruth, Gherig, and others in the lineup.

5th Starter: Andy Pettitte

The model for health and longevity, Pettitte led the majors in games started three times in his career. He pitched 200+ innings in 10 seasons of his career and even won 20 games, in 1996.

Pettitte, as well as other pitchers above, helped the Yankees win 5 World Series rings in the late ’90s and early and late 2000s. He pitched in and won many big games for the New York Yankees, making it hard to leave him out of this rotation.

An argument can be made for Spud Chandler, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, and Mel Stottlemyre to be in this rotation, but the five pitchers above allowed the Yankees to be. most successful throughout their history.

Bullpen

Long Reliever/Middle Reliever: Johnny Murphy

Murphy helped the ’30s New York Yankees win 6 World Series.

He even pitched 200 innings one season as a reliever, proving he can stay in games and consume innings. He led the league in saves four times as well.

Middle Reliever: David Robertson

His slider and ability to escape bases-loaded jams throughout the mid-2000s gives him a spot on this team. He could come out of the bullpen in the middle of an inning and let up no runs.

Robertson’s stuff allowed him to earn the second-best strikeout percentage in Yankees’ reliever history. He is the only active pitcher on this team.

Middle Reliever: Joe Page

Page only had an 8-year career, however, he led the majors in saves twice. He was also a 3-time all-star and lit up the radar gun.

Middle Reliever/Setup Man: Sparky Lyle

Lyle was a huge contributor to the 1977 and 1978 World Series Champion teams.

He led the league in saves in ’76 and would usually finish off games when he appeared. His most significant statistic was winning the 1977 CY Young award as a reliever.

Lyle could pitch multiple innings in relief, making him a good candidate for middle relief and setup man.

Setup Man: Dave Righetti

Beginning his career as a starter, Righetti was converted to the bullpen.

In 1986, Righetti led the majors in saves with 46. He won the 1981 Rookie of the Year award and reliever of the year twice.

He is second on the Yankees all-time saves list, behind none other than Mariano Rivera.

Setup Man: Rich “Goose” Gossage

He led the majors in saves three times, made 9 all-star appearances, and had his best years with the Yankees.

Gossage dialed up the radar guns and blew away hitters with his high 90s fastball. Not many pitchers in the league could throw with such velocity in the ’70s, making it even tougher to react to and make contact.

Closer: Mariano Rivera

There should be no argument here, Rivera won pretty much every award one can win as a reliever. He is the first unanimous hall of fame player in the history of Major League Baseball.

He has the most saves out of any closer ever (652), the most games finished (952), and the best ERA+ (205).

Any time “Enter Sandman” played on the loud-speaker, everyone in the budding knew the game was pretty much over. In 96 playoff appearances, Mo’ only lost one game.

He also had one of the most unhittable pitches ever, his cutter. He threw it inside on lefties and generated a lot of broken bats. He played on a level only a few relievers have reached in their careers.

When a bullpen consists of a Cy Young winner, two live arms, and the best closer ever, there is almost a guarantee the current game result as a win. A full 25-man all-time Yankees roster has been formed. This team could easily be the best group of players ever assembled.

New York Yankees: All-Time Starting Lineup/Bench

New York Yankees, Babe Ruth

Most of these players contributed to the 27 World Series rings that the New York Yankees franchise has won. From World Series MVPs to record-breaking statistics, these players have done it all in the sport of baseball.

All-Time Starting Lineup/Bench

1. SS Derek Jeter

Jeter played all 20 seasons of his career for the Yankees and was one of 15 captains in New York Yankees history. He deserved to be the second unanimous hall of fame player but fell one vote short.

He had 650 1st-pitch hits, indicating he was aggressive at the plate, which makes a perfect leadoff hitter for this team.

2. LF Joe DiMaggio

A 56-game hitting streak is Dimaggio’s most popular call to fame, however, he did make the all-star team all 13 years of his career.

He hit over .300 in 11 out of 13 years at the highest stage, which is almost never seen in today’s baseball.

To top it all off, he served his country in WWII for three years.

3. RF Babe Ruth

“The Bambino” was the greatest display of power in the early 20th century and no one will forget when he “called his shot.”

His 714 home runs have kept him among the top three home run hitters for almost a century. He has the best slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ of all-time as well.

He is arguably the best all-around hitter ever and needs to be in the middle of this lineup.

4. 1B Lou Gehrig

He and Ruth were the best one-two punch of their era, if Ruth did not drive in the runs one game, Gehrig would put the “cleanup” in “cleanup hitter” and drive in the runs himself.

In 1931, Gehrig drove in 185 runs, which is the second-most for a single season in history, behind Hack Wilson, who drove in 191 runs a year prior.

Gehrig also won the triple crown in 1934, meaning he led the American League in home runs, RBIs, and batting average, a feat that only a few players have achieved in their careers.

5. CF Mickey Mantle

Following in DiMaggio’s footsteps, Mantle, led the New York Yankees to seven World Series titles. He won the triple crown in 1956, paving the way for his first MVP award.

Mantle was arguably one of the first five-tool players in baseball, as he led the American League in many batting categories, in a single season, at some point in his career and even won a gold glove award.

Behind Babe Ruth, Mantle is second on the all-time Yankees home run list.

6. 3B Alex Rodriguez

Although his best years were for the Texas Rangers, A-Rod won two MVPs as the Yankees’ third baseman.

Yes, he did admit to using steroids, but he was still one of the most feared hitters in baseball for almost two decades.

7. C Yogi Berra

Berra, won three MVPs, 10 World Series rings, meaning he has one for each finger, not even Tom Brady has reached that level of success.

Between his “Yogisms” and serving in WWII, he did all you can ask for of a man and a baseball player. He is the textbook definition of a legend in the game of baseball.

8. 2B Tony Lazzeri

There is an argument to have Robinson Cano in this lineup, however, Lazzeri’s Yankees tenure was longer and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He also helped the historic teams of the 1920s and 30s win five World Series titles.

9. P Whitey Ford

This is just to fill a hole in the lineup without a DH, if there had to be a DH, a case could be made for Don Mattingly, Graig Nettles, or Dave Winfield, cannot go wrong with any of these players.

Ford was arguably the best pitcher in Yankees history and would be the opening day starter for this team.

Bench:

C Bill Dickey

He was Yogi Berra’s predecessor and helped the Yankees win seven World Series rings. An 11-time all-star and a hall of fame inductee earn his spot on this team.

1B/OF Don Mattingly

His best season was 1986 when he hit 53 doubles. Mattingly is a great pinch-hit option off the bench.

2B Robinson Cano

Cano got the assist on the final out of 2009 World Series game 6, which one the Yankees first World Series since 2000. He played all but one game that season and became a big part of the New York Yankees team in the early 2010s.

He is the only active player on this team, but his spot is well deserved.

3B Graig Nettles

Nettles led the American League in home runs in 1976, with 32. He is a fan favorite of the ’70s Yankees teams and needs to be on this team.

OF Dave Winfield

Last, but not least, Winfield had one of the best arms of any right-fielder ever. He would rack up double-digit outfield assist seasons a bunch of times in his career.

He also had middle-of-the-lineup production at the plate during his career, making him the perfect player to round out this team.

MLB: The 10 biggest cheats in baseball, and it doesn’t exclude the New York Yankees

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve

Throughout the history of sports, there have been cheaters, and that includes the New York Yankees.  From ice skater Tanya Harding to bicyclist Lance Armstrong to the Patriots and the Houston Astros, cheating has always entered into the results of sporting events.  Some cheating was relatively innocent to some that were totally outrageous.  Here is a look at this writer’s top ten baseball cheats.

10. Ty Cobb

It may be shocking to know that a name as famous as Ty Cob was involved in cheating at the game he is known for.  In fact, this cheating athlete was known to frequently trip base runners as they ran around the diamond,
step on infielders with his sharp cleats, and steal signs as well, maybe relatively minor compared to some, it shows that the best of athletes still cheat sometimes.

9. Whitey Ford

The beloved “Chairman of the Board” Whitey Ford did in fact cheat for the New York Yankees.  Apparently he would use his own wedding ring to cut open the baseball and then proceeded to put mud inside before pitching to the batter. He even conspired with his catcher, Elston Howard, who would use his shin guard to slice the ball as well.  Ford would later admit, “I used enough mud to build a dam,” referring to the 1963 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

8. Danny Almonte

Kids cheat at sports too.  Pitching sensation, Danny Almonte found a way to cheat.  There are rules in baseball, and these rules were broken in the Little League World Series of 2001.  Almonte was mowing down hitters with his 70mph fastball.  The age limit for Little Leaguers is 12. After the series documents turned up, proving Almonte was actually 14 years old giving him an unfair age advantage.

7. Kenny Rogers

In the 2006 World Series, something fishy was going on with Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers in Game 2. While he was taking his spot on the mound, the cameras caught something strange. There was a strange substance on Rogers’ hand, which he later described as “dirt mixed with
rosin.”  The altered ball would not perform as expected.

6. Graig Nettles

Craig Nettles boasted a 22 year-long career in baseball. He earned himself the nickname “Puff” and played for the Montreal Expos, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota Twins. In 1974, Nettles was caught cheating by way of using superballs, which are said to help hitters by adding an extra bounce to a bat.  When discovered, the balls were taken off the field, and Nettles was given a 10 game suspension.

5. Joe Niekro

Joe Niekro’s cheating method makes for an interesting addition to the vast amount of cheating methods that other players used. It’s unclear how
long Niekro was doing it, but it was in 1987 that he was caught.  He was pitching for the Minnesota Twins at the time, and during the game an emery board and a sheet of sandpaper fell out of his pocket.  Niekro was removed from the mound and suspended for ten games.

4. Gaylord Perry

Everyone knew that Gaylord Perry was using a “spitball” and it led to MLB making it illegal.  It’s a well-known fact that he would slab a nice helping of Vaseline underneath his cap, or even inside his sleeve. This was so that he could swipe it on the ball for a spitball. The additive you make the ball fly unpredictably.  Somehow this was overlooked, and Perry made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

3. Barry Bonds and company

From Barry Bonds to Alex Rodriguez the former New York Yankee the “steroid era” will forever affect the baseball sport and the validity of records for those players and the dozen upon dozens of undiscovered cheats. These groups of baseball cheats together comprised one of the most legendary and notorious examples of fraud in the history of modern sports. In the case of one of the greatest baseball players ever, Alex Rodriguez will never be considered for the Hall of Fame.

2. The New York Giants

The New York Giants came as close as a team to the cheating Houston Astros as a team could come. ESPN once called this 1951 team the “biggest group of cheaters in baseball history.” They would use an actual telescope in order to steal signs from the opposing team’s catcher. Once they knew what pitch the pitcher was about to throw, they would ring either a bell or a buzzer to inform the batter. Although the technic was ancient compared to the electronics used by the Astros it was just as egregious.

Pete Rose

Although not part of the top ten because it doesn’t involve actual cheating in a game, Pete Rose broke a cardinal rule by betting on baseball.  Suspended for life, this great baseball player may never enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, which he so richly deserves due to his clearly illegal deeds.

1. The Houston Astros

During this baseball postseason, the Commissioner of Baseball after an investigation determined that the Houston Astros when out of their way to electronically steal signs and relay them to hitters.  It may have cost the New York Yankee a World Series bid and may have cost the Los Angeles Dodgers a World Series win.  That is not to mention the stats of players they played against that year.  The New York Yankee player Aaron Judge may have missed out on the MVP for that year when Astros player Jose Altuve received the nod.

The sign stealing was so egregious that they were fined, their general manager and field manager were suspended and later fired.  It is still controversial as the Commissioner failed to strip them of their 2017 World Series title, and did not fine or charge any Houston Astros player for wrongdoing.

 

New York Yankees: A history of outstanding pitchers, find out the ten best

The New York Yankees in their storied 117-year history have had some of the best pitchers in all of baseball.  Some hurlers were one game wonders like Don Larsen, who pitched the only perfect game in World Series history in 1956.  Other perfect game winners were David Wells (1998) and David Cone (1999).  One of the more unusual pitchers was Jim Abbot, who had only one hand and pitched a no-hitter in 1993.

Many New York Yankees have been impactful in bringing the Yankees to one of their 27 World Championships. Some were career Yankees, while others joined the team from other baseball clubs.  The following is this writer’s top ten Yankee pitchers.  The list includes both starters and relievers.

 1. Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford is the hands-down number one pitcher for the New York Yankees.  The 10-time All-Star, Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, played all of his 16 years with the Yankees.  From 1950 to 1967, he had ten seasons with 16 or more wins, including a 24 and 25 game winning season.  He was so good that the Yankees named him “The Chairman of the Board.”  Ford was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

2. Mariano Riveria

Mariano Riveria is probably the greatest closer of all time.  When Mariano Rivera entered a game to the sound of the Sandman, Yankee fans knew the game was over.  Of course, he didn’t save every game but has the most saves of any pitcher (652) not only for the Yankees, but that’s for all of baseball history.  Rivera is the only player ever to be elected to the Baseball Hall of fame in 2019 by a unanimous vote.

3. Red Ruffing

In the first fifty years of the New York Yankee’s, there was no pitcher better than Red Ruffing. Ruffing led the Yankees to six World Series win from 1931-1946. Ruffing is second all-time in wins at 231, third in starts, fifth in appearances and second in innings pitched.  Ruffing was installed in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.  His number 15 one of three numbers he wore during his Yankee career was retired in 2001.

4.  Andy Pettitte

In the modern baseball era, there was no pitcher better than the New York Yankees Andy Pettitte in postseason play.  He became of the most beloved Yankee pitchers when he beat the Braves ace John Smoltz in a 1-0 win the got the Yankees their first World Series win in 17 years.  In his career, he won 18 postseason games.  In 2009 the last time the Yankees won a World Series, he won all four of his postseason games.  Pettitte is one of the most popular of Yankee hurlers have won 203 games.  That’s a feat no other pitcher has matched since.

5. Ron Guidry

Rod Guidry was that tall skinny guy from Louisiana.  “Louisiana Lightning” pitched for the New York Yankees all 14 years of his pitching career 1975-1988.  He had three 21 plus winning seasons.  He once to the delight of Yankee fans struck out 18 hitters in one game an all-time Yankee record. He is a Cy Young Award winner with a 170-90 career record. His career 3.29 ERA is one of the best in Yankee history.

6. Mel Stottlemyre

Mel Stottlemyre is one of the most overlooked Yankee greats.  Stottlemyre had the unfortunate luck to have a career during some of the Yankee worst years, which is probably overlooked.  He had a stellar pitching career with a 164-139 record and an ERA of 2.97 over eleven years from 1964 to 1974.  But where he does get much-deserved acclaim is as the Yankee pitching coach from 1996 to 2005 when he brought the Yankee pitching staff to four World Series wins.

7. Lefty Gomez

Lefty Gomez was a Yankee pitcher from 1930-1942.  Gomez has a fantastic record of 189-102.  He brought the Yankees to five World Series titles in the time Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and others took the limelight.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

8. Rich Gossage

Rich “Goose” Gossage is often credited as being one of the first pitching relievers in baseball.  Gossage was frightening figure on the mound with his fierce look and eclectic pitches.  He saved 151 games for the Yankees in his remarkable 22 years career, six of them with the Yankees 1978-1983.  That’s an average of 25 saves a year.  Gossage was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

9. Vick Raschi

Vick Raschi, while being overshadowed by Micky Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and others, turned out to be one of the best Yankee pitchers.  He went 120-50.  From 1946 to 1953, he never had a losing season.  He had five World Season Championships.  Raschi is one Yankee that is not in the Hall of Fame but should be.

10. Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens may be one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but will probably never reach the Hall of Fame because of his performance-enhancing drug involvement.  Clemens was with the New York Yankees for five years from 1999.  While with the Yankees, he won twice as many games as he lost going 83-42.  Clemens pitched an incredible 24 years.

Honorable Mentions:

Dave Righetti (1979-1990) 224 saves, Alli Reynolds (1949-1953) six World Series titles, Sparky Lyle (1972-1978) as a reliever 57-40, CC Sabathia (2009-2019) 134-88, Mike Mussina 123-72, and Aroldis Chapman 13-5 with 190 saves in four years (2016-2019).

Because of the number of outstanding Yankee pitchers over the years, it causes Yankee greats like David Cone, David Wells, Fritz Patterson, Jack Chesbro, Spud Chandler, Mike Stanton, Orlando Hernandez and dozens of others to be left off this list.  Ten years from now, will we see Gerrit Cole on the list?

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.

 

Yankees Legends: “The Chairman of the Board,” Whitey Ford

historic photograph of three baseball players

“The Chairman of the Board”

A 10-time New York Yankee All-Star, a Cy Young Award Winner, an eight-time MVP nominee, a lifetime record of 236-106, and a career ERA of 2.75, it could be only one person, Edward Charles “Whitey Ford.” Ford spent his entire career of 16 years with the New York Yankees. During his 18 years with the Yankees, he spent two years in the Army serving in the Korean War. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974. With the death of Yogi Berra, Ford has been named the greatest living baseball player by the New York Times.

Ford was a local boy, born in Queens just a few miles from the Bronx. As a child, Ford played baseball and stickball in the summer in the sandlots of the Queens, football in the fall, and roller hockey in the winter. During the summers, Ford and his friends played sandlot baseball until dark on fields next to the Madison Square Garden Bowl, about a mile from his home neighborhood.  When not playing there, he and his friend would play stickball against a wall using a broomstick.

Several neighborhood fathers got together and bought uniforms for their sons.  They organized a team for the 13-year-olds, called the Thirty-fourth Avenue Boys.  The group stayed together for five years. Ford’s childhood baseball hero was Joe DiMaggio, who he got to see when he and his Father boarded the Subway for the trip to Yankee Stadium.

In Ford’s senior years of highschool In April 1946, he attended a Yankees tryout camp at Yankee Stadium as a first baseman. Paul Krichell, a Yankees scout, noticed Ford’s strong-arm during fielding practice. It was thought he was too small to play first base but had him throw a few pitches on the sidelines and showed him how to throw a curveball. He alternated every other game by pitching and playing at first base, in the summer after he graduated by playing with the Thirty-fourth Avenue Boys. The team went 36-0 to win the Queens-Nassau semipro league, with Ford winning 18 games without a loss when pitching.

Whitey was signed by the Yankees in 1947 as an amateur free agent and was assigned to the minor leagues. It was during this time that he got his nickname “Whitey” for his nearly albino blond hair, He made his major league debut on July 1, 1950, and let it be known that he was a force to be reckoned with. He won his first nine games in a row. He was named AL Rookie of the Year by sporting news. One thing most of today’s fans are not aware of is that his record would probably be even better, had Casey Stengel not saved him for the bigger games.

In 1951 Whitey would marry is wife, Joan. After the wedding, the Fords delayed their Florida honeymoon for three days so that Whitey could throw out the first pitch at the Yankees’ 1951 Opening Day in Yankee Stadium. They lived on Long Island and raised two sons and a daughter. After his first very successful first year with the Yankees, he served the next two years during the Korean War in the Army.

When returning to the Yankees in 1953, he showed he hadn’t lost any of his skills, going 18-6 on the year and pushed the Yankees to their fifth World Series win in a row. In 1954 the Yankees were loaded with great players and fully expected to win their sixth straight pennant and World Series. They won 103 games, more than in the past five seasons. But lost to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, who would lose the World Series to the Giants.

In 1955 Ford would go 18-7, but the Yankees would not win the World Series again. In 1956 Ford would pitch even better going 19-6. Ford was 27 years old at the beginning of the 1956 season and started off winning his first six starts while giving up only five runs. He had a minuscule 0.83 earned run average. He would have had 20 wins, but when the Yankees clinched, he decided to forgo his start and save it for the World Series. The Yankee defeated the defending Brooklyn Dodgers in the Series.

The Yankees would again win the World Series in 1958 against the 1957 Champion Milwaukee Braves. In 1961 Whitey was to have his best season ever. He went 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA. He again would be an All-Star and would win his Cy Young Award. In early September, the Yankees held  “Whitey Ford Day” before a game against Cleveland, in appreciation of his outstandinng season and perhaps to make up for being overshaded by the home run race of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

The club showered him with gifts, including a six-foot package of Life Savers that was wheeled in from the bullpen. When it arrived on the mound, out popped the other top Yankee Luis Arroyo. Ford took the joke all in good humor. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series in five games against the Cincinnati Reds, their 19th World Series win.

Ford had three nicknames; Whitey was one of them due to his light blonde hair.  He was also called “Slick” by manager Casey Stengel.  But the nickname that has always stuck is “The Chairman of the Board.”  He got that moniker due to Stengel saving him for big games, and his ability to withstand high-pressure situations was an easy calm while remaining in complete control of a situation.

Ford would go on to have four more winning seasons, including another World Series win in 1962. the last success for the next 15 years. During his career, he had 13 seasons with eleven wins or more. His second best was the 24-7 season in 1963. He will go down in history as one of the greatest Yankee pitchers of all time. At age 91, we hope again to see the “Chairman” at this year’s Old Timer’s Day Game at Yankee Stadium.