“Doors open and close” are the words Bill Ford uses to describe his professional baseball career.The Concord native played in the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds farm systems in the 1940s and ’50s but never “got a break” to play in the major leagues.Instead, Ford’s destiny became opening doors for thousands of Concord High students during a teaching and coaching career that spanned nearly three decades. Between 1960-1989, Ford was a fixture as a Concord baseball coach, athletic director, and driver’s education teacher.This year, Concord High is saying thank you. In April, Concord will formally dedicate its baseball field as Bill Ford Field. Concord’s home baseball opener is March 5 against Northwest Cabarrus.Five months ago, Ford was enshrined in the Cabarrus County Sports Hall of Fame. Many of his former players, from various sports, attended the ceremony.“I never thought about being in a hall of fame,” Ford said. “Working with all those kids is my hall of fame. I was fortunate to have so many good athletes come my way.”On Feb. 5, a ceremony to honor Ford for his long and dedicated career was held between the varsity basketball games. E.Z. Smith, the former Concord High football coach, was a catalyst for having the field named for Ford. He was a member of Ford’s 1972 Concord team that won the South Piedmont Conference championship.“He was such a great role model for all of us,” Smith said. “He was out there extending his time, giving us his life.”This is the fourth time Concord has named an athletic facility for someone. Its football stadium was dubbed Robert C. Bailey Stadium for a former team physician. Charlie Rimer, a long-time principal, lent his name to the school’s gymnasium, which is home to Coach Bo Court, named for former basketball coach Bo Brickels.“I’m very pleased and thankful that they would consider me for that,” said Ford, who is now 85 years old. “I definitely would like to thank the school board for approving that. It’s been such a blessing.”While still playing pro ball, he graduated from Catawba College in 1958. In 1960, he retired and moved to Concord, where he taught social studies and history for two years in Mooresville. When he started at Concord High, he taught history and physical education. He was already coaching girls’ basketball and was the assistant coaching for football when Rimer told him he would start coaching baseball in 1962. He continued to coach that sport until 1983. Gary Cress, who went on to work 35 years with Concord Parks and Recreation, played on Ford’s first teams at Concord. Cress remembers his teams finishing second in the conference for four straight seasons.“He was a great coach,” said Cress, a standout pitcher. “He worked me hard. I give him credit for that, making me the best that I could be.”Until the late 1970s, Ford never had an assistant baseball coach. That was also around the time aluminum bats came into use. Ford says that probably was the biggest change in baseball during his tenure.His baseball teams never played on the field that will be bear his name.Ford’s Spiders always played at Webb Field, behind the old Concord High (now called The Glenn Center) on Marsh Avenue, even after the school was moved to Burrage Road. The school developed land for a modern field on its current site in the early 2000s.But Ford didn’t limit himself to coaching just baseball. As athletic director from 1964 to 1989, Ford often coached teams that he sometimes couldn’t find coaches for, such as cross country and golf.“I drove the van and they ran,” Ford says about his days as cross country coach.He also had an impact beyond sports, teaching many students how to drive a car.And as the Dean of Students, Ford and Logan High School administrator Jess Banner helped oversee the desegregation of the two Concord schools onto the current Concord High campus in the late 1960s.He was married to his wife Mildred for almost 60 years. She died in 2009. The couple had five children.The Concord athletic department is accepting donations to help erect a sign to honor the field’s new name.For information, contact Concord High athletic director George Walker or baseball coach Jaymie Russ at 704-786-4161.
Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
Concord High to name field for Bill Ford
Concord High’s baseball field is being renamed Bill Ford Field. Ford coached the school’s baseball team from 1962-83. JOE HABINA
Bill Ford put in nealy 30 years of service at Concord High School and is in the Cabarrus County Sports Hall of Fame. The school's baseball field is being renamed in his honor. JOE HABINA