'Did you write mine?' Ford asked about obit

October 9th, 2020

Of all the stories and sidebars I have heard and read over the years, this one in particular has always stood out. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think it might be because Whitey Ford had a way about him, a way of speaking, a sharp wit accompanied by a sly smile. People didn't call him "Slick" for nothing, and anyone familiar with those traits of his should be able to picture this conversation in the mind's eye. Which is why this short story, written by the late Marty Noble for MLB.com almost a decade ago, with the intention of it being published when Ford died, seems like something worth sharing. -- Bob Dittmeier

Nothing was out of bounds to Whitey Ford. He laughed at death, even his own. We were in Cooperstown in the summer of 2010. Living where he had for years, in Lake Success, N.Y., on Long Island, Whitey had read Newsday regularly when I was working for the newspaper, but he was unaware that I had changed employers and begun working for MLB.com.

Because I no longer covered the Mets, as I had done for decades, he lost track of me. So when our paths crossed at the Otesaga, the hotel headquarters for Hall of Fame weekend, he asked what had become of me.

"I can't find you on the box [the computer] anymore," he said.

"Well, I have different assignments now," I said. "Columns and features and I do a lot of obituaries of baseball people."

"Jeez, how many guys die?" he said.

I explained that parts of obituaries are written well before deaths occur so that stories can be posted quickly when needed. "Newspapers have many obits done for famous people," I said. "The [New York] Times updates the president's almost every day."

After a moment's thought, Whitey looked at me quizzically and asked, "So, did you write mine?"

I said, "Yeah, as a matter of fact, I did."

"How'd it turn out?" he asked.

I said, "OK. I've known you personally since '74 and I was a Yankees fan as a kid. I had a lot to say about you."

"What'd you say?" was Whitey's next question.

"Well, you know, we get along," I said. "I took care of you, don't worry. You won 236 games. I gave you 241. No one will notice."

Whitey laughed, his eyes brightened and he asked, "Did they publish it yet?"