Frank White, Royal Delight.
Posted by athomeatfenway on November 16, 2012
In advance of Frank White’s appearance at the World Series Club last night, I surfed the internet. I learned about his 8 gold gloves, 3 All Star games, 1 ALCS MVP, 18 years with George Brett as a Royal, his education in the Royals Baseball Academy, the 1985 World Championship.
I read about how in Cal Ripken’s first MLB at bat, Cal hit a chopper over the pitcher’s head and through the middle for an apparent single. White flew in from the right side, pivoted, levitated, and nipped Ripken at first with his throw. Returning to the O’s dugout, teammate Ken Singleton remarked, “Welcome to the big leagues. That’s Mr. Frank White.”
I also learned that Frank, true blue KC Royal, had just written a book titled, “One Man’s Dream: My Town, My Team, My Time.” In it, he explains that he was fired from his broadcasting job earlier this year in retaliation for quitting his position on the Royals Community Team after they cut his pay from $150,000 to $50,000.
Frank made about $5,000,000 or more in his 18 year MLB career. In case you were wondering.
There was some public squabbling, no doubt. But Frank did not rip the Royals once last night as he spoke to over 100 members of the World Series Club of Hartford County.
Frank white, the man with a statue outside Kaufmann Stadium, the man from KC and for KC, the player enshrined in the Royals Hall of Fame threw no barbs. He offered encouragement and insight.
When asked about George Brett he said the HOF’er was the best all around possible player and team leader. One who did his leading on the field, though. He wasn’t a locker room leader, like Hal McRae. Frank explained that he made a decision not to try to stop Brett from charging umpire Tim McLelland in the Pine Tar game. Brett thought he’d hit a game winning homer and headed for the dugout where White met him and said, “Hey, I wouldn’t be too happy if I were you.”
“Why is that ?, Brett asked.
“Because it looks like they are waving off your homer and calling you out. Look !”
White felt Brett go stiff with anger and did not move a muscle to restrain him. He let others do the job. When he got back to the dugout Brett mentioned that White hadn’t tried to stop him, but he was happy that others did. McLelland is 6’6” and 250 pounds. “The closer I got to him, the more I started to worry.”
Proud to be a Royal, White described the arc of the franchise history, from expansion club in 1969 (69-93), to winning club in 1971 (85-76), just their third season.
When White joined the team as a shortstop in 1974 he got a good look at Freddie Patek and realized he would need to learn to play second base if he was going to stick with the Royals. He soon played winter ball to learn that new position, and replaced Cookie Rojas in 1976, the year before Frank won his first gold glove.
Frank said the Royals were an expansion team that became good quickly, suffered a little mediocrity, and then reeled off winning seasons in 11 of 16 years, capturing 6 Division titles, 6 second places, 2 AL pennants and 1 World Championship. That’s what good drafting & player development will do.
That was followed by a small market crunch in which the Royals did not sign or lock-up high-priced talent, even those they drafted like Johnny Damon. In the last 23 years of Royals history the team recorded 19 losing seasons, including 16 in last place or next-to-last place.
Frank White doesn’t like the franchise failure. He is physically and spiritually close to this town and team. As a kid, he could see the A’s ballpark from his middle school and high school. As a kid, the gate keeper would let him in for nothing to see the last 3 innings of any game. KC baseball is in Frank’s DNA.
But Frank White didn’t complain. Which reminds me of what he said John Maybery told him when he joined the Royals in 1973. “Kid, we all make mistakes.”, said the dude who would crash 255 career taters. “But when someone on this team makes a mistake and is asked about it, we just say we made a mistake and move on. We learn from it. That’s it. That’s what you need to do.”
Frank learned plenty.
He was a pleasure to listen to on this particular evening. His new book is on my Christmas list.