Among the most famous persons ever to spend time in my hometown of Binghamton, New York, was one Edward Charles Ford, who spent the summer of 1949 hurling for the Binghamton Triplets baseball club.
The Triplets were the Single-A farm team of the New York Yankees, and you know the pitcher better as “Whitey.”
Whitey Ford died last week, 13 days shy of his 92nd birthday.
It’s hard to know exactly where to begin listing accolades when describing Whitey Ford. Ten-time All-Star, six-time World Series champion, Cy Young Award winner, World Series MVP, Hall of Famer…
How about winningest pitcher in the history of the New York Yankees?
Yeah, that’s a pretty good tag.
I’d love to say it all started in Binghamton, but actually it started in New York City, where young Edward was born in 1928. He grew up a few miles from Yankee Stadium, where folks like Ruth and Gehrig were cementing the game’s place as our national pastime. Ford was signed by his hometown club in 1947, playing in the minors before bursting on the big league scene in 1950. By then he was known as “Whitey” for his light-blond hair, and after the 1950 World Series everyone knew the kid from Astoria, Queens. But he was already a legend in Binghamton, where he’d led the Triplets of 1949 to the Eastern League title after joining the team mid-season. Ford made 19 starts and won 16 games. His 1.61 ERA (some books call it 1.64) was the lowest in all of organized baseball that year. A young sportswriter for The Sun-Bulletin was also in his first season with the club that and got to document it all, years later telling the stories to his grandson.
Yup… this guy. Thanks, Grandpa.
Though he’d done a little coaching and a little broadcasting in his post-pitching days Whitey Ford mostly played the role of “baseball ambassador,” and he wore the title well. He made a few trips back to Binghamton in his post-playing days too, usually at the urging of longtime friend Billy Martin. (Billy met a girl from here, of course, and lived his final years just north of town.) Ford was also enshrined in Binghamton’s Baseball Hall of Fame, which might not be as big a deal as its counterpart in Cooperstown, but then again, with fewer members, technically it’s more exclusive than the one 90 minutes up the road.
Here’s to Whitey Ford, consummate pro and gentleman of baseball.
Even made Binghamton look good.