John Stanley “Jack” Sanford was born in Wellesley Hills in 1929 as the youngest of four children in a family of modest means. Sanford, then known as Johnny, loved baseball from an early age and went on to pitch for Wellesley High School (also known as Gamaliel Bradford High School) in the mid-1940s. Sanford was not a highly recruited player upon graduating in 1947, but attended a mass tryout hosted by the Red Sox at Fenway Park and wound up signing a minor league contract to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization for about $125 a month in 1948. Both the Sox and Boston Braves had a shot at him, and in fact, Sanford even chauffeured for the Braves’ owner, Lou Perini.
Sanford toiled in the minors for 7 years, his progress retarded both by a lack of pitching control (he averaged 5-plus walks per 9 innings during certain stretches) and a quick on-field temper. But Sanford got enough control of both while with the U.S. Army in the mid-1950s, and he also grew stronger. All that helped him to finally get his call up to the majors at the end of the 1956 season.
The 6-foot righthander’s major league career started in earnest in 1957, and it began with a bang. As a hard-throwing 28-year-old rookie in his first full season in 1957, Sanford went 19-8, led the league in strikeouts and won Rookie of the Year honors. (Lifetime stats here).
Sanford also took part in the All-Star Game (he pitched 1 inning and gave up a run) in 1957, becoming the first Phillies pitcher to do so as a rookie. (A Saturday Evening Post article in 1958 reported that Sanford started out with a salary of about $6,000, though got a quick bump up to $7,500 with a $2,500 bonus once he made the cut, then scored a jump to $16,000 in 1958. Like many players of that generation, Sanford also worked outside of baseball: He was a salesman for a corrugated box company.)
He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for catcher Valmy Thomas and pitcher Ruben Gomez at the end of 1958 in what turned out to be an awful deal for the Phils. Sanford helped lead the Giants to the 1962 World Series against the Yankees, winning 16 straight games at one point (and remaining unbeaten during 20 starts) during the season and finishing second only to Don Drysdale in Cy Young voting for the league's best pitcher. Sanford's regular season record in 1962 was 24-7.
1962 World Series
In the World Series, Sanford matched up in three starts against Ralph Terry. Sanford won Game 2 by a score of 2-0 and lost Games 5 and 7 (by scores of 5-3 and 1-0) to the eventual champs.
One fun fact from that World Series: Sanford outhit teammate Willie Mays (3 for 7 vs. 7 for 28, a small sampling, but still...). One San Francisco Chronicle writer described Sanford like this:
“He was a bulky guy, who would be a small-size right tackle on the football team. He wasn't delicate. He was out there to throw the baseball and he did it well. He wasn't afraid to brush back a hitter. He was an old- school pitcher. He wasn't a Cadillac, but he was a damn good Buick.”
Jack Sanford Night in Wellesley, Mass.: Feb. 7, 1963
This event to honor Sanford in his hometown drew 500 people to Knight Auditorium, including ballplayers such as Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Pesky, Wilbur Wood, Sam Mele and Bill Monbouquette. Also on hand: Sanford's Wellesley High School coach, Hal Goodnough, and Frank Seyboth, the scout who signed Sanford to his first minor league contract. On the menu: Roast Rump of Beef.
Sanford was also honored on Feb. 7 by town officials, who declared it “Jack Sanford Day in Wellesley.”
Sanford switched from starting to relieving midway through his career after suffering shoulder/arm trouble. Sanford, a lifelong Red Sox fan, retired from baseball in 1967 with a record of 137-101. He later was a pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians and did some scouting. After baseball, Sanford became a golf course director. The temper that often worked to his benefit on the baseball field wasn't such a help on the golf course. One author recounts stories of Sanford being seen bleeding on golf courses after hitting himself in the head with his clubs. Sanford died in West Virginia in 2000. And in Wellesley, Sanford's name lived on after he left, as the Wellesley High baseball team used to acknowledge its top pitcher with the Sanford Award.
A few more fun facts
- Don't confuse "our" John Stanley "Jack" Sanford with John Doward "Jack" Sanford, a first baseman for the Washington Senators for parts of 3 seasons in the 1940s. He hit .209 lifetime.
- You might still run across the Sanford name in sports: His son John is a golf course designer (More: Sanford Golf Design)
- Sanford's teammates on the 1962 Giants World Series team included four Hall of Famers: Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays and pitcher Juan Marichal. And then there was Don Larsen, the ex-Yankee known best for pitching the only perfect game in World Series history.
- He finished in the top 10 of MVP voting during both 1957 and 1962.
- Sanford wore 4 different uniform numbers during his career: 48 and 39 (Phillies), 33 (Giants) and 49 (Angels) and back to 33 (Athletics)
- Sanford finished up his career pitching for the California Angels and Kansas City Athletics. By that point he had become mainly a relief pitcher. His best season as a reliever came in 1966 for the Angels when it went 13-7 and saved 5 games. Once during that season he entered a game immediately after the starting pitcher on his team hit the first batter on the other team with the first pitch of the game, and Sanford went on to toss a shutout victory over the rest of the game. Sanford retired as a player in 1967.
Learn more about Sanford
- Lifetime stats
- More stats
- New York Times obituary
- San Francisco Chronicle obituary
- A rare feat: Striking out the side with bases loaded in extra innings
- Wikipedia entry on Sanford
- Wikipedia entry on 1962 World Series
- Nice black-and-white photo on Flickr
Books/Magazines(unfortunately, not all are available online)
- “Jack Sanford's Grim World” by Bill Libby in Sport magazine in March 1963.
- Sanford's bio in the Biographical Dictionary of American Sports, in which we learn Sanford had a hot temper and really got going once he mixed a curve with his fastball
- “Rookies of the Year by Bob Bloss, 2005
- “Major League Baseball Handbook” by Don Schiffer, 1963
- “Baseball Stars of 1963" (Chapter: Jack Sanford: Broth of a Pitcher") by Jack Zanger, 1963
- “Baseball’s Oldest Youngster” from Saturday Evening Post, March 29, 1958
- The Giants Encyclopedia by Tom Schott and Nick Peters (The section on Sanford includes this snippet: “He was nicknamed “Smiling Jack” because he was usually scowling, and he was also nervous and irritable.”)
- Audio broadcast of Game 7 of World Series: Sanford vs. Ralph Terry (subscription required)
- Short video highlighting 1962 World Series
Gallery: Sanford Baseball Cards from 1957-1967