In a few years they would unite in New York and become part of another run of Yankee championships but in the late 1940s, they were just a couple of promising minor leaguers. Two rare early photos of Whitey Ford and Billy Martin from their pre-big league days combine for the RMY Auctions Photo of the Day.
They’re part of an online catalog of hundreds of rare, vintage photographs being sold this weekend.
The Ford photo was taken in 1949, when he was playing for the Binghamton Triplets. Struck by dysentery while pitching in Mexico months earlier, he spent three weeks in the hospital as the Triplets labored in last place. Returning to the roster, Ford’s pitching helped Binghamton win the league title.
A year later, the Long Island native would make his spectacular MLB debut, winning his first nine decisions for the Yankees. He’d signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1947.
The photo, taken by a Binghamton area photographer, carries the company’s gold embossed “Ed Ford” label on the front. It has some light wear and staining from a long life inside a scrapbook.
Bay Area native Billy Martin was signed by the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1947. He played for Casey Stengel in ’48 when the 4 ¾” x 8” photo was taken, and again in 1949. When Stengel joined the Yankees as manager, the team signed Martin. He’d play in pinstripes until being traded in 1957 but returned multiple times during the 1970s and 80s as manager for owner George Steinbrenner.
The photo has some moderate wear from use by newspaper photo editors. In fact, some captions from printed editions remain affixed to the back.
The auction continues through Saturday at RMYAuctions.com.