This is becoming a bad year for baseball legends. The latest legend we had to say good-bye to is Whitey Ford. The winningest pitcher in the history of the New York Yankees died Oct. 9 at the age of 91.
Ford was 236-106, 2.75 in 16 years as a Yankee. The Yanks are best-known for their great hitters, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Let’s not forget they had some great pitchers too, and Ford was one of the best.
A left-hander, Ford’s rookie year was 1950, when he posted an astonishing record of 9-1, 2.81. He missed 1951 and 1952 to military service, but, when he came back in 1953, he picked up where he left off and went 18-6, 3.00. He was one of the key players on those Yankees’ teams of the 1950s.
In 1961, Casey Stengel was replaced as Yanks’ manager by Ralph Houk. He gave Ford more time on the mound, and Ford responded with his best season ever. He went an amazing 25-4, 3.21. He won the Cy Young Award.
That was the year Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle both appeared like they could break Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season. They powered the Yankees to a pennant, but they had a lot of help from a certain left-hander. After he won two games against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, Ford was named the Series Most Valuable Player.
Ford was a 20-game winner again in 1963, as he went 24-7, 2.74. A couple of years after that, however, he began to slow down. His final year was 1967, when he was 38 years old. He was still effective, going 2-4 but having an ERA of 1.64 in seven games.
With Ford’s passing, that means few players are left from those great Yankees’ teams that dominated baseball in the 1950s. It was a golden era for baseball in New York that likely will never happen again. So long, Whitey. I hear Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio want to see what you’ve got. I’m sure Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle told them plenty about it.
You may have heard the TV ratings for the NBA finals were the pits this year, off by more than half of what they were in 2019.
Of course, there are those pundits who say this was the result of the NBA becoming so “woke” with social justice protests. I’m certain that had something to do with it, but I don’t think that’s the only reason.
Let’s face it: the timing was off. For most fans, this isn’t the time of year for the basketball finals. It’s the time for the NFL and MLB’s post-season. It was hard to get in the mood for basketball. The seasons got all off-kilter due to the coronavirus pandemic.
I also suspect the fact that many NBA players almost appeared hostile to the fans is another part of the problem. It could also be that, after such a long break, many fans have simply concluded they don’t need professional sports.
Let’s see what happens when the NBA starts allowing fans into the games again, and when the NBA is back on something resembling a normal schedule. I have a funny feeling attendance will be way down. Maybe then the franchises and players might try something like being friendly to the fans.
That couldn’t hurt.