Reflecting on Whitey Ford’s Passing
by Paul Semendinger, October 11, 2020
I don’t know exactly when it is that a person becomes more than just a Yankees fan, but when that time arrives, he finds himself somehow knowing, as much as he knows almost anything else, that Babe Ruth was the greatest, Lou Gehrig never missed a game, Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 games, and that no one ever could run and hit with power like The Mick. It just happens. These things become part of us. We know who Reggie was. And Mattingly. Jeter and Mariano, too. We know all about the Perfect Games and the championships. Roger and Yogi, Nettles and Guidry. Elston Howard and Thurman too. They all become part of us somehow.
We also learn that the greatest of all the pitchers to wear pinstripes was Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford.
How this all happens, and whether it all happens quickly or over time remains a mystery, but this is what happens to Yankees fans.
It just is.
We wake up one day just knowing these players, relating to them all somehow. We embrace them, their legacies and their memories.
Those Yankees become part of us. We see ourselves in various ways in them.
Maybe this is why we take the losses in the regular season, and especially in the post season so personally. When the Yankees lose, we lose somehow.
Standing just a little bit taller than all of the other pitching greats in Yankees history is the Chairman of the Board, the great Whitey Ford.
His passing, I believe, hit us all. Another of the great Yankees is lost to the ages.
The Yankees lost a great player on Friday.
All of baseball seems a little sadder.
I know I’m a bit sadder.
Whitey Ford is dead.
It just makes me pause.
And it makes me a little sadder than I was before I knew that news.
Whitey Ford was one of the last great Yankees whose great career preceded my birth. He was one of the last from an era that was so close, but like all things that happen before us, also seems to distant.
Because of this, I don’t really remember Whitey Ford. But, still, somehow, he was as real to me as any Yankee I did see. Whitey Ford was a Yankee. A great Yankees. The greatest of all Yankees pitchers.
There are really only two Yankees pitchers that would go atop a Yankees Pitchers Mount Rushmore. Those two pitchers would be Whitey Ford as the starter and Mariano Rivera as a closer. Up for debate would be the rest… Waite Hoyt? Red Ruffing? Lefty Gomez? Reynolds, Raschi, or Lopat? Ron Guidry? Sparky or the Goose? Andy Pettitte? C.C. Sabathia? Who else would be there?
This fact alone speaks to his greatness.
Whitey Ford stands alone on top of the Yankees’ pitching world.
Whitey Ford is the ultimate standard that all Yankees starters will forever be judged against.
I believe in God. I believe in Heaven. I’ll even go so far as to say that I know God is real and that Heaven exists. Absolutely.
Whether or not there is baseball in Heaven is another story, but I can’t imagine a place as wonderful as Heaven must be without baseball.
When I heard the news of Whitey Ford’s passing, I first thought of him getting together with Mickey Mantle. “I’ve been waiting a while for you Whitey,” the Mick might have said.
Those 1950s Yankees in Heaven teams probably needed Ford’s left arm to help them win a few more World Championships in the Eternal Baseball League’s American division.
I do know this. If it is a Sunday, and it’s Heaven, I’m sure ol’ Whitey will be on the hill.
I was pleased the Yankees put #16 on their uniform sleeves for their playoff game on Friday night. I hope they play tribute with Ford’s number on the sleeve for all of next season.
Whitey Ford deserves a full season, not a single game.
The oldest living Yankees Hall-of-Famer is now Reggie. This is a sobering thought for me.
I saw Reggie play. I rooted for Reggie.
The torch has now been passed so that the great living Yankees of the past are not the guys from an era before me, but from the time when I was a fan.
For our younger readers, you’ll understand how this hits home a bit more when Derek Jeter is one day the oldest living Yankee Hall-of-Famer.
Rest in Peace Whitey.