He lifted his voice and spoke with pride. "This club always faces the real good pitchers. Pierce, Wilson, Lemon, Score, Brewer. Everywhere. Even in Washington. We get Ramos and Stobbs. You get used to it."
This, then, might be the answer to the old miracle of baseball: why an ordinary player on being traded to the Yankees turns into a superior player. He becomes used to playing against the best opposition, used to playing to the absolute limit of his own ability in order to match that opposition. The opposition then goes off and plays someone who really doesn't care, but the Yankees take on someone who does, who even on a dull, humid day in August wants desperately to beat the Yankees. Go against the best day in and day out and it becomes commonplace. When something better than the best appears it becomes not a thing to fear and wonder at but rather a new and exciting challenge, something to rise to.
Ford—despite his 180 pounds and his shoulders which, as Jim Turner pointed out, are massive—is nevertheless small compared to many of the pitchers he faces, and he does not possess the superb natural pitches of a Score or a Lemon. But he has developed his own skills to a point of high efficiency, and he has learned in the heat of competition that a Score or a Lemon, or whoever, is not impregnable. Slowly, he has built his poise and confidence until now, when he takes the pitching mound against them, he feels that he is the one to beat—he and, of course, the Yankees.
This is the Yankee characteristic. Despite Mantle and Berra, today's Yankees are no Murderers' Row band of sluggers. They are sharp, alert, capable craftsmen of a game that returns high premiums in runs and victories for just such qualities.
Not all the Yankee players have it, that special nature and knowledge and ability to play with mind and body sharp and alert, and to play better and better as the competition gets tougher and tougher. But the key Yankees do. And Edward Charles Ford, not yet and possibly never a 20-game winner, is a key Yankee. And because old Connie Mack was right, as he usually was, when he talked about pitching, Whitey Ford—certain to start the first game of the 1956 World Series and very likely at least one more after that—is an excellent bet to rise to the occasion. He did just that when he beat the Brooklyn Dodgers twice last year, and this time, with just a little bit of luck, he can prove to be the difference between Yankee defeat and victory.