COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#16)
By Paul Semendinger
As we wind down this series, we'll have more and more numbers that are foregone conclusions at the start. Very few numbers have much debate left. I might have to start to look at who the runners-up are at these significant numbers.
Looking ahead, I suspect the following will be the best at the following numbers:
16 - Whitey Ford
15 - Thurman Munson
14 - This one might be interesting...
13 - Alex Rodriguez
12 - Hummmmm
11 - Brett Gardner
10 - Phil Rizzuto
9 - I'd be very surprised if Nettles doesn't win here
8 - Yogi Berra
7 - Mickey Mantle
6 - Roy White
5 - Joe DiMaggio
4 - Lou Gehrig
3 - The Babe
2 - Derek Jeter
1 - This might be interesting... I suspect it'll be Bobby Richardson
I could add 0 as Adam Ottavino, but I know that would infuriate some readers here.
Also, one I finish counting down, I'll have to update a few of the high numbers again because of the players called up this season. But on to #16...
In the history of the Yankees, fourteen different players wore #16, the last, of course being Whitey Ford.
There's no question that Whitey Ford was the greatest Yankees starting pitcher. He had 236 wins. He only lost 106 games. HIs winning percentage, over his career, was .690. For his career, he sported a 2.75 ERA. He was the ace of the staff on a team that won the World Series in 1953, 1956, 1957, 1961, and 1962. He was also on the 1950 World Championship team as a rookie who went 9-1, 2.81. Ford then missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons to military service.
Whitey Ford was a greater pitcher than people remember.
In the first four years after he came back from military service, Ford's average season was 18-7. Let's look at that for a moment....
Imagine if Ford had just had typical seasons in 1951 and 1952. If that were the case, he would have had 272 wins against just 120 losses. That record would have given Ford a lifetime winning percentage of .694. Amazing.
With 236 lifetime wins, Whitey Ford sits in 64th place all-time. Since he retired, 28 pitchers have accumulated more wins. When he retired, Ford was 36th all-time. But, give him 36 more wins and he would be (right now) 33rd all-time, and at retirement, he would have been 18th all-time.
A little more....
Here is the full list of pitchers who have a higher lifetime winning percentage than Whitey Ford:
Al Spalding .795 - he pitched in the 1870s
Ray Brown .728 - he pitched in the Negro Leagues
Spud Chandler .717
Bullet Rogan .697 - he pitched in the Negro Leagues
And then there is Whitey Ford at .690 (tied with Dave Foutz who pitched from 1884 to 1896, but was a pitcher only primarily in the 1880s).
Or, how about this?
Al Spalding - 347 games
Ray Brown - 213 games
Spud Chandler - 211 games
Bullet Rogan - 214 games
Dave Foutz - 251 games pitched
Whitey Ford - 498 games
Whitey Ford was a more successful pitcher than most people even realize. They hear the name, "Whitey Ford," acknowledge that he was great, and then move on. They usually don't rank him higher because he "only" won 236 games. But he was better than that. He is, when looked at this way, one of the best pitchers, ever.
Quick aside - I discussed previously, the fact that when Paul O'Neill had his uniform number retired that the Yankees should have also spent some time remembering Spud Chandler who also wore #21 throughout most of his career - spent entirely with the Yankees.
If Paul O'Neill deserves his number being retired, doesn't Spud Chandler deserve the same? Spud Chandler is forgotten. By retiring his number for a different player exclusively, Spud Chandler gets thrown back further and further into the dustbin of history. And that's just not fair.
The other Yankees who wore #16, all before Whitey Ford were (with some notes):
Bill Bevens (1946-1947) - He was wearing #16 when he came within one out of throwing the first ever World Series no-hitter.
Charley Stanceu (1946)
Herb Crompton (1945)
Joe Page (1944) - This was before he had his great season as a relief pitcher.
Mel Queen (1944)
Tuck Stainback (1942-1943)
Johnny Lindell (1941) - An outfielder with the Yankees, he later made a comeback as a pitcher for the Pirates and Phillies.
Monte Pearson (1936-1940) - Talk about forgotten pitchers... As a Yankee, he went 63-27 for a .700 winning percentage! The Yankees won the World Series in each of his first four seasons as a Yankee.
Jimmie DeShong (1934-1935)
Wilcy Moore (1932-1933) - This was after he was a great relief pitcher with the 1927 Yankees.
Gordon Rhodes (1932)
Herb Pennock (1930-1931) - At the tail end of his Hall of Fame career.
Tom Zachary (1929-1930) - Before becoming a Yankee, he surrendered Babe Ruth's famous 60th home run.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.
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