City begins $2.9 million
transformation of Astoria’s
Whitey Ford Field
22 APRI L 2 0 2 1
Photo courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila
By Greater Astoria Historical Society
The city broke ground on the $2.9 million reconstruction
of the baseball field at Whitey Ford Field
along the East River in Astoria.
The dilapidated facility at the northwest edge of
Halletts Peninsula will receive an extreme makeover
including natural grass turf and brand-new dugouts.
The field’s entrance will also be reconstructed to provide
a more welcoming point of entry for visitors along
The project will add new amenities including fitness
equipment, picnic tables, drinking fountains, pavements
and seating areas to the site. In addition, the
existing sports lighting poles will be revamped to provide
increased visibility on site.
“Whitey Ford Field is heavily used by Astoria’s young
athletes and we’re committed to providing our youth
with quality open space,” NYC Parks Queens Borough
Commissioner Michael Dockett said. “With brand-new
turf and enhanced entryway and new amenities, this
project is a remarkable investment into this beautiful
The $2.9 million project was funded by $493,000
from Mayor Bill de Blasio, $1 million from Councilman
Costa Constantinides and $1.5 million from former
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
“Whitey Ford grew up in Astoria with the dream of
making it in Major League Baseball, but he hardly
could have imagined that his dream would come true
less than seven miles away on the pitcher’s mound at
Yankee Stadium,” Queens Borough President Donovan
Richards said. “Today’s groundbreaking on the
reconstruction of Whitey Ford Field will pave the way
for a first-class facility where Astoria’s ballplayers of today
can work on making their own dreams come true.”
The field’s namesake, Ford, died last fall at the
age of 91.
“One of the greatest pitchers in Yankee history, Edward
Charles ‘Whitey’ Ford remains a legend of the
game more than 50 years after his retirement,” Constantinides
said. “Although we sadly lost him last year,
his memory will live on forever in his native Astoria
through Whitey Ford Field. With today’s groundbreaking,
we will ensure that this park is there for generations
to come so that future ballplayers can follow in
the footsteps of the ‘Chairman of the Board.’”
EXPLORE YOUR BORO
Legends of LIC
The Best First Baseman
BY GREATER ASTORIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
On July 20, 1944, the sports section of the Long Island Star featured a
photograph with the caption “Big Hitters in Kiwanis League.” Among the
smiling lads was 16-year-old Eddie Ford, who played with the 34th Avenue
Varsity in the NYS Kiwanis League. Ford, an Astoria native who was nicknamed
“Whitey” for his blond hair, went to Manhattan Aviation to perfect
his budding skills.
Years later, when asked his favorite game, he said “pitching the Maspeth
Ramblers to a 16–11 victory over the Astoria Indians.”
His career spanned 16 years as a Major League Baseball pitcher with
the New York Yankees. He was a 10-time All-Star and six-time World Series
champion, earning the respect of friend and foe alike. His fellow team
members called him the “Chairman of the Board.”
In 1958, the Star again profiled Ford. “I’ve got to say this is the best season
I’ve ever had … everything is going just right for me,” said the talented
left-hander after pitching an 8–0 victory as part of a double-header sweep
of the Kansas City Athletics.
In 1961, he won both the Cy Young and the World Series Most Valuable
Player Awards. Ford led the American League in wins three times and
in earned run average twice. He is the Yankees’ franchise leader in career
wins, shutouts, innings pitched and games started by a pitcher.
Casey Stengel, proud of Ford’s record, boasted “that man is the best
man in the league when he’s got it and he is a lot better than most when
he’s not quite right too.”
After earning 27 victories during the 1961 campaign, in 1962 the Yankees
agreed to a $60,000 contact — peanuts by today’s terms, but it was
also the salary for the mayor of New York City at that time.
Ford had a little help along the way to compiling the highest winning
percentage (.690) of any pitcher in the 20th century: he later admitted to
having a special ring made for scuffing. In his co-written biography, “Slick,”
he confesses to doctoring baseballs.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.
Ford moved to Long Island but never forgot his Astoria roots. His stepfather,
Jimmy Young, ran a bar on 34th
Avenue where Whitey, Mickey Mantle
and fellow teammates celebrated victories.
When he heard the Greater Astoria
Historical Society was writing a book on
Long Island City, he called pledging an
autographed picture for inclusion.
And Astoria never forgot him either. A
baseball field in Astoria was recently renamed
Whitey Ford Field. About 2010 an
older man showed up at our gallery at the
Society. He mentioned that he played ball
with younger Ford before he got drafted
to fight in World War II. When he got out,
friends told him that Ford was a pitcher.
He scoffed, “Pitcher? Don’t kid me! That
kid was the best first baseman I ever saw!”
BY BILL PARRY
Greater Astoria Historical Society
44-02 23RD ST. #219
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY 11101
INFO@ASTORIALIC.ORG / WWW.ASTORIALIC.ORG