Early Life

Sanford is the top right entry in this page from the 1947
Wellesley High School yearbook

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 is 4th from left, front row

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.

Early Career

“Baseball’s Oldest Youngster,” from the Saturday Evening Post, March 29, 1958 (available in the reference section at Wellesley Free Library)

Rookie of the Year

"R.O.Y." (Rookie of the Year)

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.)

1958 Phillies autographed ball, Sanford autograph second from bottom: Credit to Stludwig at Flickr

Autographed photo

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

1962 Giants Team

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.

Photo courtesy of Hill's House via Flickr

1962 World Series ticket

Sanford was quoted in a Sports Illustrated article saying the Game 2 victory was his career highlight, even though he pitched with a cold and on short rest ("The cold didn't bother me," he said between sniffles. “What did I do for it? I just blew my nose. But, man, was I nervous. About like I felt in my first game as a rookie. But I knew I had one thing in my favor. They wouldn't send me down to the minors this time, even if I lost.”). Sanford actually pitched well in all three games, compiling a 1.93 ERA and striking out 19 in 23.1 innings (complete 1962 World Series stats here and a wrap-up of the Series from the Giants website). The ending of Game 7 is an all-time classic, punctuated by Giants power hitter and eventual Hall of Famer Willie McCovey lining to Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson for the final out with the possible tying and winning runs on base (25 years later, Sanford told the San Jose Mercury Press: “I dream about it every night...No matter how often I think about it, we still lose.”).

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.”

Later Career

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


(unfortunately, not all are available online)


Gallery: Sanford Baseball Cards from 1957-1967

1957 Topps rookie card

1958 Topps

1958 Hires Root Beer card

1959 Topps

1960 Topps

1960 Leaf card

1961 Topps

1962 Topps

1961 Post Cereal card

1962 Post Cereal card

1963 Post Cereal card

1963 Topps

1963 Topps World Series card
(1962 series vs. Yankees)

1963 Topps pitching leaders
(for 1962, Sanford upper left)

1964 Topps

1965 Topps

1966 Topps

1967 Topps


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