Tough? This little fellow with the knickers and the small boy's cap?
"I'll tell you one secret about Ford," said Jim Turner, pitching coach under Stengel. "He looks like a little boy out there on the mound. But he isn't. He's a man, and a big man. You ought to see the shoulders on him, and the back. He weighs 185 pounds. He's big. He's strong. People think he's one of these cuties, has to fool the batters. But don't worry about Ford. He's got plenty of stuff on the ball."
As for Ford himself, he sat in the dugout in Yankee Stadium late one afternoon before a night game and talked about himself and about pitching and about the Yankees.
"I weigh 180," he demurred gently. "I know because I just weighed myself. I don't want to get fat."
He smiled, a cheerful, amused little smile, as if this were a personal joke.
"When I tried out for the Yankees in 1946 I was five seven and weighed 140. I was a first baseman. Krichell [Paul Krichell, the Yankees' chief scout] told me I was too little to be a first baseman. He told me to try pitching. That summer I played with a team in the Journal-American League, over in the Polo Grounds. I pitched all summer, and then they came looking for me."
Ford grinned again, as if he had just thought of something funny.
"Maybe Krichell was just kidding," he said, "because I was so little. I wonder if he was. Though I could always throw pretty good.
"That summer I learned how to throw a curve. I mean, I knew how to hold it, you know, and spin it off your fingers. But that summer I learned how to throw it. The day they came to see me we won 1-0 in 11 innings. I struck out about 18 guys. The Yanks signed me when the season was over in October, just before I was 18."
Ford went to the minors, into the Yankee chain. He pitched in Class C—the second-lowest minor league classification—in 1947, Class B in 1948, Class A in 1949 and Class AAA in 1950, a steady, classic progress up the minor league ladder, climaxed in midsummer of 1950 when he was called up to the Yankees.