While a semi-pro pitcher, Ford accidentally discovered that a scuffed baseball could be made to break sharply. He began intentionally doctoring the ball using emery paper, and disguised his pitches as spitballs, which were legal. The Canadian was brilliant as a New York rookie, going 26-6 in 1910. He followed with a 22-11 mark, but his effectiveness waned and chronic arm soreness developed. In 1912 he lost an AL-high 21. He had one resurgent season in 1914, leading the outlaw Federal League with a .769 winning percentage (20-6). His brother Gene pitched seven games for the 1905 Tigers.