SI Vault
Robert Creamer
September 10, 1956
Whitey Ford looks like a little boy, but he's big enough to win the World Championship
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 10, 1956

The Pitcher Who Could Win The Series

Whitey Ford looks like a little boy, but he's big enough to win the World Championship

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

"I'd keep it inside," he cautioned. "I wouldn't try to hit the plate. I don't want him to hit my fast ball. I'd keep it inside, close to him. All right. One and one. Then I'd try a change, maybe, just to upset his timing a little. Say it misses. Ball two. Then maybe I'd try a fast ball right down the middle, right across the middle of the plate. He wouldn't be expecting that. All right. Two and two. Then I'd try to give him a real good curve, put everything I have on it."

He did not say whether the curve was a ball or a strike, but he sat back, contented, thinking of the real good curve.

"I'm lucky in that I can throw a curve when it's three and two. Not many pitchers can do that. They get behind, they have to come down the middle. A pitcher like me without overpowering stuff can't just throw the ball over the plate. I have to pitch to spots. A guy like Score or Newcombe or Turley can fire the ball, and if he gets it anywhere over the plate he's tough to hit."

He mentioned the batter again.

"Of course, if it's 10-1 our favor or theirs I wouldn't work on him. Just give him good curves. I wouldn't let up, I'd throw hard, but I wouldn't work on him."

Ford talked about the Yankee pitching staff. He mentioned Kucks and how the tall right-hander had gained not only 15 pounds over the past season but a good deal more confidence in his own ability, and Sturdivant and the knuckle ball the latter has utilized so well. He discussed the other pitchers.

"I think our staff's pretty good," he said. "Just because we don't have a lot of 20-game winners, people say it isn't any good. I think it's a good staff. Most of our guys have good records. Go look at them. They talk about Cleveland all the time and their pitching staff, but last year our staff had a better earned run average than theirs did. We got a good staff."

A search of the records bore Ford out. Three of this year's disappointments—Turley, Larsen and Byrne—had a combined record on September 1 of 22 victories and 10 defeats. True, three men were doing the work of one (one like Don Newcombe, say), which is wasteful, but the work they were doing was, in retrospect, highly satisfactory.

Part of the good record of this part-time, hither-and-yon pitching staff must stem, of course, from the hitting and fielding prowess of the Yankees' Hitting & Fielding Department, and part from the skill with which Casey Stengel manipulates his starters and his relief pitchers. But part, too, may be the result of something that Ford touched on in an impromptu discussion of tension and excitement.

"I get more nervous sitting on the bench than when I'm in the game. If I could be as good a major league first baseman as I am a pitcher—I mean, if I was bigger and I could go for the distance and all—I'd rather play first base than be a pitcher. It's tough sitting on the bench between starts. You worry about everything, whether you're going to win or lose. It's easier if you're playing. Out on the field you can do something about it. I don't get nervous when I'm going to pitch a game. No, not even when it's against a real good pitcher. You get used to it."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5