A Success at Every Level
Bill White left his mark at all his stops in the game
By CRAIG MUDER
December 5, 2009
COOPERTSOWN, N.Y. – As a player, broadcaster and executive, Bill White blazed a trail for African Americans in baseball.
And at each stop, White was an all-star performer.
|Bill White is one of twenty finalists for election to the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 by the Veterans Committee. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)|
“He is a man of great integrity and dedication,” said Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles. “He worked hard at his job.”
White, who as the National League’s president from 1989-94 was one of the highest ranking African Americans in all of sport, is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Veterans Committee executives/pioneers ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Veterans Committee will vote on Dec. 6 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7. The results of the Veterans Committee election for managers/umpires will also be announced on Dec. 7.
The 10 candidates on the executives/pioneers ballot are: Gene Autry, Sam Breadon, John Fetzer, Bob Howsam, Ewing Kauffman, John McHale, Marvin Miller, Gabe Paul, Jacob Ruppert and White. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010.
Born Jan. 28, 1934, in Lakewood, Fla., and raised in Warren, Ohio, White was signed by the New York Giants in 1953 off the campus of Hiram College. He planned on using the $2,500 from his Giants signing bonus to continue his pre-med studies at Hiram, but quickly found success on the baseball diamond. In the minors, he helped desegregate several leagues, including the Carolina League in 1953 – where he became the league’s second African American player.
White made it to the big leagues with the Giants in 1956, then was traded to the Cardinals before the 1959 season. In St. Louis that year, White was selected to the first of five straight All-Star teams. In 1960, he won the first of seven straight Gold Gloves at first base. And in 1964, White finished third in the National League MVP voting while leading the Cardinals to a World Series title.
He was traded to the Phillies following the 1965 season, then returned to the Cardinals in 1969 before retiring with a .286 career batting average, 202 home runs and four 100-RBI seasons.
In 1971, White joined the New York Yankees broadcasting team, and called games with Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto for most of the next 18 seasons. White’s call of Bucky Dent’s home run in the 1978 one-game American League playoff remains one of the game’s most famous, and White also worked postseason games for ABC sports during this time.
But in the spring of 1989, White was offered the job as the president of the National League – a job that was being vacated by Bart Giamatti, who would soon be named the commissioner of baseball.
“I was having fun, making decent money, doing what I wanted to do,” said White of his time with the Yankees. “I told them no.”
But White later reconsidered.
“Bill had no choice but to accept that job,” said Hall of Famer and former teammate Bob Gibson. “Not for himself, but for other people.”
White presided over NL expansion – the Marlins and Rockies joined the league in 1993 – and the movement to unite the two leagues under one administrative umbrella. But by early 1994, White was ready to move on.
“I’ve been around (baseball) for a long time,” White said. “It’s given me a nice living, a nice home, five kids, four that finished college. It’s all through baseball. That’s why you want to protect it.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum