By Mark A. Wallinger
On November 29, 1950, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford, fresh off a World Series victory with the New York Yankees, was drafted into the army during the Korean War, and assigned to the U.S. Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth.
At the time, Ford, 21, was still a fresh new face in the major leagues, but he went on to win 236 games, the most of any New York Yankee, and ranks 63rd on the all-time Major League Baseball list for career wins. His winning percentage of .690 (nearly 7 of every 10 games!) ranks him fourth all-time.
Ford missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons while stationed at Fort Monmouth during the Korean War. He pitched for the Fort Monmouth Signaleers baseball team in and around New Jersey. The competition was good, as dozens of top professional ballplayers were in the service (e.g., St. Louis Cardinals ace Harvey Haddix pitched for Fort Dix). A Yankees teammate of Ford’s, Jerry Coleman, an infielder who had just been named Most Valuable Player of the 1950 World Series, was an aviator in the Korean War who won two Distinguished Flying Crosses. Hall of Fame outfielders Willy Mays and Ted Williams were also Korean War veterans of military service.
With Ford as the draw, the Signaleer games were well-attended, and the team hosted games in Monmouth County, but also traveled to nearby stadiums. The Fort Monmouth field had lights, so games were played at night, about four days a week, sometimes in front of as many as 4,000 fans, who each paid $1. The commander of the Fort wanted Ford to pitch every game because the Yankee star always drew a big crowd.
Ford worried that the Yankees would move on without him, but the entire team attended his wedding in Glen Cove, Long Island, during his time in the army. In April of 1951, Ford tossed the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in his Army uniform.
Ford died at the age of 91 on October 9, 2020. At the time of his death, he held the record for most World Series victories by a pitcher, with 10, but one has to wonder if he would have won more, as the Yankees won the World Series both years he was at Fort Monmouth. He pitched for 11 pennant winning teams and six World Series champions. The years in the service were both years that the Yankees won the Series, and in the peak of his athletic prime, so might very well have won eight.
About the author:
Mark A. Wallinger is a marketing and sales executive originally from New Jersey.
Staff of the Historical Office. (2008). A History of Army Communications and Electronics at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey 1917-2007. Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J. U.S. Government Printing Office, available: bookstore.gpo.gov.
Whitey Ford, Yankees legend, Army vet, dies age 91. (2020). Valor Guardians. Available: https://valorguardians.com/blog/?p=106017&cpage=1
Signaleers notch wins at Fort Monmouth with Hughesville native and “Whitey” Ford. (2017). The Luminary. Available: https://www.muncyluminary.com/your-community/local-features/2017/10/13/signaleers-notch-wins-at-fort-monmouth-with-hughesville-native-and-whitey-ford/