3B-OF-1B 1962-70 Orioles, White Sox , Yankees
Dean Chance once called the dumpy, rumpled Ward the league's toughest clutch hitter.
In the 1960s, he was as close as the White Sox came to having a consistent power
threat in spacious Comiskey Park. The son of NHL star Jimmy Ward, he was acquired
as a throw-in (at the insistence of White Sox coach Charlie Metro, Ward's first minor
league manager) in the blockbuster deal that brought Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson,
and Hoyt Wilhelm from the Orioles in return for Luis Aparicio and Al Smith. Placed
at third base to replace Smith, he showed good range but led AL third basemen with
38 errors, most of them attributable to his strong but scattershot throwing. But
White Sox pitchers didn't complain; he beat Detroit with a seventh-inning HR on Opening
Day, the start of an 18-game hitting streak. For the season Ward hit .295, fifth
in the AL, with 22 HR, 84 RBI, and 80 runs, and he finished second in the AL in total
bases (289), hits (177), and doubles (34). TSN named him AL Rookie of the Year.
Lefthanded-hitting Ward used
a strange batting stance, crouching with his rear foot pointed straight at the plate
and his front foot pointed at the pitcher, and he had a big uppercut. Ward himself
observed, "I got a real silly stance. Fundamentally I got a bad swing." He had career
highs of 23 HR (including three grand slams) and 94 RBI in 1964 and cut his errors
in half (19), but in 1965 he was bothered by recurring muscle spasms in his neck
(the result of a minor auto accident in the off-season). He dropped off to 10 HR,
57 RBI, and a .247 average. A back injury in 1966 cut even deeper into both his playing
time and his production (84 games, .219, 3 HR) and forced a move into the outfield.
He rebounded somewhat in 1967 with 18 HR and 62 RBI in 467 at-bats, playing outfield,
first base, and third, but he hit only .233 and struck out a career-high 109 times.
White Sox lineup was getting weak in the late 1960s (Ward's 18 HR in 1967 led the
with Tommie Agee at 14 and Tom McCraw at 11 the only others in double figures),
and Ward saw fewer good pitches; he walked 61 times in 1967 and 76 times in 1968,
his last decent season (15 HR, .216). By 1969 he was a utility man, but he did pinch
hit .370 (17-for-46). He finished his career in limited duty with the Yankees in