By Mark A. Wallinger
Hall of Fame pitcher Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford has ties to Monmouth County in ways that most people won’t realize as they hear tributes after his passing at the age of 91 on October 9, 2020.
Ford won 236 games, the most of any New York Yankee, and ranks 63rd on the all-time list. But his winning percentage of .690 (nearly 7 of every 10 games!) ranks him fourth all-time, and second in the modern era to Clayton Kershaw.
Drafted into the Army in 1950, Ford missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons while stationed with the U.S. Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth during the Korean War when he was 21.
He played with the Fort Monmouth Signaleers in and around New Jersey. The competition was good as dozens of major leaguers were in the service (St. Louis Cardinals ace Harvey Haddix pitched for Fort Dix, e.g.).
With Ford as the draw, the games were popular and well-attended, and the team hosted games in Monmouth County, but also traveled to nearby stadiums.
The Fort Monmouth field had lights, so the 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 player 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. In April of 1951, Ford tossed the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in his Army uniform.
At the time of his death this week, he held the record for 10 World Series victories, but one has to wonder if he would have won more, as the Yankees won the championship 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, so it was likely he would have won eight.
Mark A. Wallinger is a marketing and sales executive originally from New Jersey.
Sources: 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/