March 20, 2019

60 Years Ago (1955): Whitey Ford’s Back to Back One-Hitters

September 8, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Whitey Ford won his 17th game of the 1955 season on September 7, allowing just one hit in beating the Kansas City Athletics, 2-1. It was his second consecutive start pitching a complete-game one-hitter. Five days before, Ford had defeated the Washington Senators, 4-2, giving up just one hit. In between, he pitched an inning-and-a-third against the Senators to pick up a save, retiring all four batters he faced. Every win was important because both the Indians and White Sox were keeping pace with the Yankees, all three teams maneuvering within two games of the top.

Neither of Ford’s one-hitters, both pitched in Yankee Stadium, came against one of the better teams in the American League. Only one of the 16 major league teams had a worse record than the 46-81 Washington Senators when Ford took the mound against them. Their most dangerous hitter was Roy Sievers, who had been red-hot in the month of August, batting .363 and hitting 6 of the 25 home runs he had at the end of the season. The Kansas City Athletics, who stood at 56-79 on the day they faced Ford, had the fourth-worst record in the big leagues. Gus Zernial, whose 30 home runs for the year would be second in the league, was KC’s most potent power threat, but Vic Power, who finished with a .319 batting average and 19 home runs, probably their most dangerous hitter.

Ford had already beaten the Senators twice in two starts, winning blowout games by 19-1 (on opening day) and 7-2 , and was 3-0 in his three starts against the Athletics, winning 6-1, 7-3, and 3-2.

And neither of his one-hitters was a work of art, especially not for a pitcher whose reputation already was, or would soon become, that of a sublime left-hander—at only 5-10 and 178 pounds, hardly an imposing figure on the mound—who was an artist in the craft of pitching. Ford walked four batters in his September 2 start against the Senators, although one was intentional, and he walked six in his September 7 start against the Athletics, two intentionally. In both games, the only hit Ford allowed came in the seventh inning—late enough in the game for the fans in the Stadium to take notice that a no-hit possibility was in the offing, building drama, but not so late in the game that the drama built to compelling anticipation.

And, as the final scores indicate, neither game was a shutout.

On September 2, Ford held the Senators hitless through six innings, allowing just two base runners on walks in the first (so much for the perfect game) and fourth. But after Ford’s party-hearty running-mate Mickey Mantle had just hit a three-run home run off Bob Porterfield to break-up a scoreless pitching duel, the top of the seventh was uncharacteristically sloppy for Ford and the Yankees. Ford walked Mickey Vernon for the second time to start the inning, got the dangerous clean-up hitter Sievers to foul out, and then witnessed not only Carlos Paula break up his no-hitter after 6.1 innings with a single to left, but left fielder Irv Noren throw the ball away to allow Vernon to score and Paula to reach third. He scored on a Tommy Umphlett grounder to short. Ford allowed another walk, then retired the final seven batters he faced.

With both Cleveland and Chicago winning, Ford’s one-hitter kept the Yankees tied with the Indians in second place, a mere half-game behind the White Sox. It was an important victory, if for no other reason than the Yankees had been playing somewhat raggedly since winning 13 of 16 to take a 1½-game lead on August 25. Since then they had lost four of six, including two of three in Cleveland that left the two teams tied for first.

Two days after the one-hitter, manager Casey Stengel called on Ford to relieve Bob Turley in the eighth inning with two outs and the Yankees leading, 7-3, but with two runners on. Switch-hitter Ernie Oravetz, in his first of only two years in the majors, was at the plate. No problem. Ford retired him, and all three Washington batters in the ninth to preserve the victory. The Yankees were still half-a-game behind.

On September 7, Ford again had a no-hitter going when he took the mound in the 7th inning, the Yankees with a 1-0 lead on a fifth-inning single by Billy Martin, another of Ford’s (and Mantle’s) party-heart running-mates. The seventh once again proved messy for Ford and the Yankees. Ford, who had already walked three, made that four with four pitches the umpire called balls to Hector Lopez. This was after retiring the first two batters in the inning. Jim Finigan rapped a ground-rule double to break up the no-hitter, after which Stengel chose discretion as the better part of valor with pinch hitter Enos Slaughter at the plate, batting .312, by having Ford intentionally walk him to load the bases. Sadly for the shutout bid, Ford unleashed a wild pitch with pinch-hitter Elmer Valo at the plate, on which Lopez scored and the two other runners moved up. Valo was intentionally walked to load ’em up, but as in his previous start, Ford again retired the last seven batters he faced.

Perhaps ironically, because the Athletics had six runners reach base on walks against Ford, the Yankees won this game on a walk-off walk. The Yankees had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth for Irv Noren, whose plate discipline led to a walk down to first for him, and to home for the runner on third to secure a 2-1 triumph for the Bronx “Bombers,” whose only two extra-base hits were doubles.

The victory gave the Yankees an 83-54 record in the 137 games they had played so far as the September stretch loomed ahead. With both Cleveland and Chicago again winning, Ford’s second consecutive one-hitter kept the Yankees half-a-game back of the Indians. The White Sox were now a game behind the Yankees in third. (And for Red Sox Nation, Boston was still in the race, three games out of first.) Just 17 games remained for the New Yorkers.

Comments

One Response to “60 Years Ago (1955): Whitey Ford’s Back to Back One-Hitters”
  1. paul dunn says:

    I saw Whitey Ford pitch in mid-September against the Red Sox at Fenway. It was the second game of a day/night doubleheader. The Red Sox had to win the second game to stay in the race. Stengel brought Ford into the game in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and one out The Sox trailed 3-1 but Ted Williams was at bat. Ford induced Williams to hit into an inning ending double play.In the bottom of the ninth
    Jackie Jensen led off with a home run but Ford retired the side and the Sox were eliminated.
    I really enjoyed your article
    Paul Dunn

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