LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. – During an era when the Yankees won the World Series so routinely it was joked that rooting for them was like rooting for General Motors, their ace pitcher owned the most fitting nickname: “The Chairman of the Board.”
Whitey Ford, the street-smart New Yorker who had the best winning percentage of any pitcher in the 20th century and helped the Yankees become baseball’s perennial champions in the 1950s and ’60s, died Thursday night. He was 91.
The team said Friday the Hall of Famer died at his Long Island home in Lake Success, New York, while watching the Yankees in a playoff game. His wife of 69 years, Joan, and family members were with him.
Ford had suffered from the effects of Alzheimer's disease in recent years. His death was the latest this year of a number of baseball greats — Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.
On a franchise long defined by power hitters, Ford was considered its greatest starting pitcher. He posted the most wins in Yankees history and still owns the record for World Series victories.
Not big and not overpowering, the wily left-hander played in the majors from 1950-67, all with the Yankees, and teamed with the likes of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra to win six championships.
“If you were a betting man, and if he was out there pitching for you, you'd figure it was your day,” former teammate and World Series MVP Bobby Richardson told The Associated Press on Friday.
Ford won 236 games and lost just 106, a winning percentage of .690. He would help symbolize the almost machinelike efficiency of the Yankees in the mid-20th century, when only twice between Ford’s rookie year and 1964 did they fail to make the World Series.