Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Whitey Ford ...Cheating to Win a Bet

(According to Whitey Ford...from the book..Baseball as it Was..etc..by Anthony Connor.)

The 1961 All-Star game was at Candlestick Park. The game was on Tuesday and we got there on Monday, so Mickey and I headed right for the golf course. It was a place where the owner of the Giants, Horace Stoneham, was a member, and we played with his son, Peter. But we didn't have any equipment with us...so Pete Stoneham said, "Just sign my father's name, " and that was the best offer we'd had for a long time.

We didn't go so far as to buy golf clubs, but we did get new shoes, a pack of sweaters, balls and shirts, and the whole bill came to around $200.

During the match Joe DiMaggio and Lefty O'Doul were playing behind us in a twosome. The 9th hole was on an elevated green where I guess they couldn't see us from the fairway. Anyway, Mickey was getting ready to putt, and this ball came flying down and hit him right on the head, sort of glanced off his head while he was lining up his putt. I'm not sure if it was O'Doul or DiMaggio, neither one of them would admit who hit the ball off Mickey's head.

Toots Shore had a suite and he invited me and Mickey over for a little cocktail party.

So while we were telling everybody about our golf game, and how Mickey got hit in the head by a ball, I went over to Horace Stoneham to pay back the $200 tab we ran up at his club. Horace is a nice, generous man, and he didn't seem to want to take the dough back. So he said, "Look, I'll make a deal with you. If you happen to get in the game tomorrow and you get to pitch to Willie Mays, if you get him out we'll call it even. But if he gets a hit off you, then we'll double it- you owe me $400, okay?"

Mickey wouldn't go for it. No way. He knew that Mays was like 9 for 12 off of me lifetime, and he didn't have any reason to think I was going to start getting Willie out, not especially in his own ballpark. But I talked him into it. Now all I had to do was get Willie out.

The next afternoon in Candlestick Park, I started for the American League and Willie was batting fourth for the National League. I got the first two batters out, but Roberto Clemente rapped a double and here comes #24.

Well, I got two strikes on him somehow, and now the money's on the line because I might not get to throw to him again.

So I did the only smart thing possible under the circumstances: I loaded the ball up real good. You know, I never threw the spitter-well, maybe once or twice when I needed to get a guy out really bad. But this time I gave it the old saliva treatment, and then I threw Willie the biggest spitball you ever saw.

It started out almost at his chest and then it just broke down to the left, like dying when it got to the plate and dropping straight down without any spin. Willie just leaned into it a little and then stared at the ball while it snapped the hell out of sight, and the umpire shot up his right hand for strike THREE.

Okay, so I struck out Willie Mays. But to this day people are probably still wondering why Mickey came running in from center field now that the inning was over, clapping his hands over his head and jumping up in the air like we'd just won the World Series. It was a money pitch and we'd just saved ourselves $400.

Kevin Marquez