Whitey Ford, Astoria resident and Yankees legend, dies at 91

Whitey Ford’s talent took him from 34th Street in Astoria to baseball stardom in the hallowed grounds at 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx.

Whitey Ford, the kid who rose from the sandlots of Astoria to legendary status with the New York Yankees and later the Baseball Hall of Fame, died Friday at his home on Long Island.

He would have been 92 on Oct. 21.

“The Yankees are incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford,” the club said on its Twitter account. “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.”

“We join the baseball community in mourning the passing of Baseball Hall of Famer, Whitey Ford,” said the New York Mets on Twitter. “The native New Yorker, who lived in Astoria, Queens as a child, spent all 16 years of his professional baseball career in New York as a member of the @yankees. #RIPWhitey.”

Major League Baseball also tweeted its condolences.

Ford’s family moved to 34th Street in Astoria from Manhattan when he was 5. The lefthander pitched and played first base the Manhattan School of Aviation Trades because it had a baseball team while his neighborhood high school, William Cullen Bryant, did not.

“Whitey” was bestowed on Edward Charles Ford by his first minor league manager, Yankee icon and future Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez, for his blond hair. He joined the big club in mid-1950 as a 21-year-old rookie, but pitched like a veteran. He went 9-1 down the stretch, and on a staff loaded with established stars like Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat, got the ball — and the victory — to clinch a four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies’ “Whiz Kids” in the World Series.

Following two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Ford anchored the staff for the next decade, He retired during the 1967 season, when his injured left arm could take no more punishment.

His 236 wins and 45 shutouts are still Yankee records. He also still leads the team in all-time innings pitched, and shares the record of 438 career starts with another lefty, Andy Pettitte.

Ford won the 1961 Cy Young Award in the days when only one was given in all of baseball, and pitched in 11 World Series.

His all-time record of 10 World Series victories has withstood assault from the likes of Sandy Koufax (4), Bob Gibson (7), Don Drysdale (3), Jim Palmer (4), Tom Seaver (1), Jim “Catfish” Hunter (5), Ken Holtzman (4), Steve Carlton (2), Jack Morris (4), Greg Maddux (2), Tom Glavine (4), John Smoltz (2), Pettitte (5), Randy Johnson (3) and Madison Bumgarner (4) for the last 58 years.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974 along with his buddy Mickey Mantle, the same year his No. 16 was retired by the Bronx Bombers.

Whitey Ford Field is on 26th Avenue between First and Second streets in Hellgate Park. His children and grandchildren have occasionally joined Friends of Whitey Ford Field for cleanups and fundraisers.

The Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday placed Ford’s photo atop its website next to one of Gibson, who passed away Oct. 2.

"Hall of Famer Whitey Ford’s incredible legacy will live on in Cooperstown," the HOF tweeted, with links to videos from its archives. 

“Today, New York City lost one of Astoria’s proudest sons and one of the greatest Yankees of all time,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) — an Astoria native and proud Yankees fan —  in an email. “That legacy will live on every time an Astoria kid swings a bat at Whitey Ford Field and when every Yankee dons the pinstripes.”

“We are devastated to hear of the great Whitey Ford’s passing,” said the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey in a tweet. “One of Yogi’s closest companions, Whitey was so incredibly kind and caring, beyond being a legendary pitcher. The loss is immense. Here’s to you, the Chairman of the Board. We love you.”

Palmer, the longtime Baltimore Orioles ace who joined Ford in the Hall of Fame in 1990, also felt the loss.

“Today I was asked who’s my fav pitcher of all time. I’ve never been asked!” Palmer tweeted. “It’s Whitey Ford. What an honor to call him my friend.”

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