Russell William (Russ) Ford was born in Brandon. The right-handed pitcher was the first Manitoba-born player to make baseball’s major leagues and the first Canadian to win 20 games in a season. Over seven big league seasons, he had a 99-71 record with an ERA of 2.59. He started 170 games and completed 126. Ford was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. While pitching for Atlanta of the Southern League in 1908,
Ford accidentally discovered that a scuffed baseball would do crazy tricks when pitched. He began to use an emery board to scuff the ball and the “emery” pitch helped him reach the majors. Ford made his American League debut with the New York Highlanders, later the Yankees, on April 28, 1909. It was the only game he pitched in the majors that season. Ford returned to New York in 1910 and won 26 games, second best in the AL, and lost six. He had an ERA of 1.65, struck out 209 batters and beat Hall-of-Fame pitcher Cy Young three times. In 1911, Ford went 22-11 with 26 complete games for a team that fell from second place to sixth. He was one of three pitchers selected to play for the AL in a benefit game that was baseball’s first unofficial all-star contest.
New York finished last in 1912, but despite arm problems, Ford won 13 games. In 1913, he went 12-18 with an ERA of 2.66 for a seventh-place team. When New York offered him a cut in pay, Ford moved to the new Federal League in 1914 with Buffalo where his record was 21-6 with an ERA of 1.82. His winning percentage of .776 topped the league. The emery pitch was declared illegal after the 1914 season. The following year Ford again had arm problems and finished with a 5-9 record. That was his last season in the majors although he pitched two more years in the minors. His Canadian-born brothers, Gene and Walter, also played professional baseball.
b. April 25, 1883
d. January 24, 1960