OBSERVATIONS: Whitey Ford — the man who dubbed Pete Rose ‘Charlie Hustle’

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, listening to the Talking Heads babble on about the greatness of the Rays-Yankees 2-1 game. What was it? Another Baseball-2020 game: Home runs (all three runs came on solo home runs), strikeouts and walks. MLB-TV’s Harold Reynolds called it an epic battle that will go down in history and never be forgotten. Well, until next week.

—What Sandy Koufax and Warren Spahn represented as left handers in the National League during the 1950-60s era, Whitey Ford was ‘The Chairman of the Board’ for left handers in the American League.

Ford won 16 or more games in 11 of his 16 seasons with the New York Yankees with two 20-plus seasons. And he didn’t throw hard enough to put a dent in foam rubber.

Ford passed away this week at age 91.

As good as he was during the then 154-game season, Ford was legendary during the World Series. He died with six World Series championship rings in his possession.

He appeared in 11 World Series and won 10 games. Three times he won two games. In the 1960 World Series against Pittsburgh he pitched two complete-game shutouts. In the 1961 World Series he won two games against the Cincinnati Reds and one was a shutout.

Ford is credited as the guy that inflicted Pete Rose with his famous “Charlie Hustle” nickname.

The accepted tale is that it was Rose’s rookie year and the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees played an exhibition game. Rose drew a walk and sprinted to first base. Ford turned to teammate Micky Mantle and said, “Who is that guy, Charlie Hustle?”

Mantle, though, says it didn’t happen that way. His story was that, yes, it was a spring training game.

Mantle hit a home run way out of the ballpark. Rather than just watch it sail over his head, Rose ran to the wall and jumped as high as he could to try to catch the ball that was long gone. Mantle said that when he got back to the dugout, Ford said “Did you see Charlie Hustle out there?”

Either way, before he nicknamed himself ‘The Hit King,” Rose went through baseball known as Charlie Hustle. . .and Ford did hang it on him.

There was a day when somebody asked if pitchers might be afraid of getting hit by a line drive off the bat of behemoth Jose Canseco. Said Canseco’s former manager, Tony La Russa “In my experience, the guy they were most afraid of was Frank Howard.” Howard, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound former Ohio State basketball player, hit balls so hard they screamed in pain.

When told what La Russa said, Howard smiled and said, “Aw, I don’t know about that, but I did put a part in some infielders’ hair.”

Ford, though, backed La Russa by saying, “Big Frank was the only batter who ever scared me.”

Ford, Mantle and Billy Martin were notorious night owls and there wasn’t a drinking emporium in Manhattan they weren’t intimately familiar with.

As Ford once said, “Hell, if I didn’t drink or smoke, I would win twenty games every year. It’s easy when you don’t drink or smoke or horse around.”

Ford was often suspected of applying foreign substances to the baseball and when pressed he said, ”I didn’t begin cheating until late in my career, when I needed something to help me survive.

“ I didn’t cheat when I won 25 games in 1961. I don’t want anybody to get any ideas and take away my Cy Young Award. And I didn’t cheat in 1963 when I won 24 games. Well, maybe a little.”

One of Ford’s pitching contemporaries was the Dodgers legendary Sandy Koufax. Said Ford, facetiously, ”I know Koufax’s weakness. He can’t hit.”

They don’t make ‘em like Whitey Ford any more.

—From a friend: “If Joey Votto could run as fast as he can grow a beard he would be a beast on the basepaths instead of a burden.”

—Aroldis Chapman, an accomplished boxer, might want to slip on a pair of Everlast gloves every October so he can’t pick up a baseball. October has been a month-long Halloween for the former Cincinnati Reds pitcher.

When he gave up that dramatic home run to Tampa Bay’s Mike Brosseau Friday that knocked the New York Yankees out of the playoffs, it wasn’t the first piece of miserable October history for Chapman.

It was worse last year. He gave up a walk-off home run to Houston’s Jose Altuve that knocked the Yankees out of the American League Championship Series, sending the Astros to the World Series.

And crank it back to 2016 when he pitched for the Chicago Cubs. In Game 7 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians, he gave up a two-run home run to Rajai Davis in the eighth inning that tied the game, 6-6.

While Chapman sobbed in the dugout, the Cubs dug him out of the doldrums by coming back to win 8-7, in 10 innings.

All three of those pitches that cleared the walls were on 100 miles an hour fastballs. Speed kills in more ways than one.

The Yankees and Rays are arch-enemies, they don’t like each other a little bit. Tampa got in a cruel dig after the game. As Chapman talked after the game, Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ blared on the public address system in Petco Park. It is the song the Yankees play after every win in Yankee Stadium.

—QUOTE: From Aroldis Chapman after giving up the home run to Tampa Bay’s Mike Brosseau: “I feel terrible. As the closer of this team, it’s part of my responsibility to go into a game where it’s either we’re going to win or we’re going to lose. It’s going to happen both ways.” (So far, it has happened only one way for Chapman and he is down 0-and-3 on the bad side.)

—Alabama coach Nick Saban went into Saturday’s game against Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin, one of Saban’s former assistants.

What is noteworthy is that Saban was 20-and-0 against his former assistants. What does this tell us? Saban isn’t a very good teacher of coaches.

—QUOTE: From Alabama coach Nick Saban: “Football is not Hamlet. It’s not tragedy. It should be fun.” (A coach talking about Shakespeare? Was he talking about former Notre Dame halfback William Shakespeare?)

—Great line from Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel on the upcoming Titanic struggle between the 1-3 Dallas Cowboys and the 0-4 New York Giants: “This game promises to be just a bar fight between two drunks who not only can’t get off the floor, but shouldn’t.”

—There have been a few facetious suggestions on Facebook that I should apply for the vacant position of Director of Baseball Operations for the Cincinnati Reds.

That qualifies as Joke-of-the-Week. First of all, I turn 80 in eight days. Secondly, Reds CEO Bob Castellini is not enamored with me and I’m probably not allowed in his office, let alone him providing me with an office down the hall.

—Who else has to ask Alexa to play 70’s on 7 as they leave the house to keep the dogs entertained?


3 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: Whitey Ford — the man who dubbed Pete Rose ‘Charlie Hustle’”

  1. Can’t swear that this is true, but Si Burick told me that he heard that Ford came close to being a Red. The Yankees supposedly were in the market for a shortstop and offered Ford to the Reds for Roy McMillan, but Casey Stengel nixed the deal. I was in the stands the day Ford set the record for the most consecutive scoreless innings. Reds’ Jim O’Toole held the Yankees fairly well in check as well, but the bullpen gave it away.

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