Frank White unveils book to gathering of KC fans
Royals icon shares memories of '85 World Series, playing in hometown
KANSAS CITY -- Royals Hall of Famer Frank White unveiled his new book, titled "One Man's Dream: My Town, My Team, My Time," to a warm reception on Tuesday night at the Kansas City Public Library.
More than 500 fans jammed into the library auditorium with an overflow watching on closed-circuit TV upstairs as the former second baseman and co-author Bill Althaus, a columnist for the Independence Examiner, had a conversation about his career and his life. Published by Ascend Books, the volume will become available at book stores during the World Series and is on sale through Amazon.com.
White begins the book at a high point in Royals' history, the 1985 World Series, and how manager Dick Howser -- with no designated hitter permitted that year and Hal McRae on the bench -- decided to elevate White into the fourth spot in the batting order.
"I was stunned, I couldn't believe it. I was Dick's choice to hit cleanup in a World Series that all the experts had already predicted the Cardinals would win. There was a lot of pressure on Dick, and I said, 'You gotta be kidding me,'" White writes.
"He wasn't. He just looked at me and said, 'No, I'm serious. I want you to bat cleanup.' When he said that, all kinds of thoughts ran through my mind. I said, 'Why don't we let George [Brett] bat fourth,' because I'm thinking about all the times the Cardinals will walk George in key situations if I'm not hitting well. What if we leave men on base because of me? George was used to hitting third and Dick wanted to keep him there. I was like, 'Okay, I'll do it. If we do well, they can write about your good decision. If we don't, they can write about how I shouldn't have been there in the first place.' I made a commitment to Dick, and he made a big commitment to me. I was not going to let him down."
White didn't. The Royals won in seven games, White led the club with six RBIs and banged a two-run homer to knock out Joaquin Andujar in the crucial 6-1 victory in Game 3 that followed two losses.
White, after receiving a rousing standing ovation, touched on such memories for the audience.
"I sort of floated [around the bases]. I think it was the furthest home run I ever hit," he recalled.
One of the reasons that White decided to tell his life story at this time, he told the fans, was in hopes it would enhance his chances for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Passed over in the baseball writers' vote, he could be considered by the Expansion Era Committee in 2013 for induction in 2014.
When Althaus asked him if he was the best defensive second baseman of all time, the winner of eight Gold Gloves smiled and said: "I think so," to great applause.
"I'm usually more humble than that," White quickly added.
White said he loved playing on the old AstroTurf at Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium.
"It showed everything that you had -- it showed your quickness, it showed your ability, it just was one of those innovative things that was right on time for me," he said.
Although born in Greenville, Miss., White grew up in Kansas City in the shadow of old Municipal Stadium, went to Royals founder Ewing Kauffman's Baseball Academy and became a hero for his hometown team. His No. 20 is one of three numbers retired by the team and his statue is on the Walk of Fame at the stadium. So it was essentially a love fest between White and the fans that filled the library auditorium.
"If I'm ever elected to the Hall of Fame, it's for all of you guys, all of you who think I should be there," he said.
In Kansas City, there's been considerable focus on White's departure last winter from the Royals' TV broadcasting team and a break with club management. In a question-and-answer session on Tuesday night, he was asked the reason for being dropped as the TV analyst.
"The only thing I got out of it is the Royals felt I was too negative," White answered. In the book he refutes that idea.
"I just talked about the game," White writes. "I would get my information from the coaches, from the players, and I always tried to talk from a player or coach or manager's perspective. And I think our fans liked that. And on replays, I tried to tell the fans what to look for -- I tried to coach them. I was doing my best to teach them something every inning of every game. What I wanted to do in the replay was point out a detail that would make the person at home go, 'Wow, okay now I understand,' whether it just be coaching points or an attention to detail. I really thought that was what made me popular with the fans because I was teaching them something every game."
White said he had fun coaching this year with the Kansas City T-Bones in an independent league and has put his differences with the Royals behind him.
"I think it's just better to keep moving the way I'm moving and just kind of let things take care of themselves," he said.
On stage for about an hour, White was at ease, talked at length about various phases of his career, and happily absorbed the praise and good wishes from the fans.
"It's nice to be missed," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.