- 1B, LF, OF, RF, CF
- January 28, 1934
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 5-07-1956 with NY1
- Allstar Selections:
- 1960 GG, 1961 GG, 1962 GG, 1963 GG, 1964 GG, 1965 GG, 1966 GG
First baseman Bill White was a seven-time Gold Glove winner and a five-time All-Star during a thirteen season big league career. Following his playing days, he was a longtime broadcaster and President of the National League.
Born in Florida, White's family moved to northern Ohio while he was growing up. He wanted to become a doctor until he was offered a contract by New York Giants scout Tony Ravish following a tryout. He made his pro debut in the Carolina League in 1953 with the Danville Leafs and was the only African-American player on the club. With the Sioux City Soos of the Western League the following summer, he hit .319 while pacing the circuit with 30 home runs. After spending 1955 with the Dallas Eagles of the Texas League, he began 1956 with the Minneapolis Millers before being promoted to the majors in May.
On May 7th, 1956, White made his big league debut, starting at first base against the St. Louis Cardinals. He homered off Ben Flowers in his first big league at-bat, and from that day on, he started at first for every remaining game of the season (replacing Gail Harris). Despite playing in just 138 big league games that year, he led NL first baseman in putouts and assists, while also clubbing 22 homers. Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1956, Frank Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Bill Mazeroski, Curt Flood, Don Drysdale, Moe Drabowsky, Tito Francona, Charlie Lau and Whitey Herzog.
White missed the 1957 season while serving in the Army, and when he returned in the middle of the 1958 campaign, the club had moved to San Francisco, and Orlando Cepeda had replaced him as the team's starter at first. Prior to the next season, he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals.
With Stan Musial playing first for the Cards, White was moved to left field when he joined them in 1959. He responded by hitting .302 in his first year in St. Louis and making his first All-Star team. In 1960, Musial was moved to left, and White was installed at first for a six year run, each season of which he won a Gold Glove Award. He was also an All-Star four more times for the Cardinals and was third in the 1964 NL MVP vote, which was won by teammate Ken Boyer.
On April 12, 1960, in the inaugural game played at Candlestick Park, White, batting third for the Cardinals in the top of the first inning, recorded the first base hit in that ballpark. He hit a single to right field off of Giants' starter Sam Jones. White and Jones had been traded for each other one year earlier.
Following the 1965 season, White was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. In his first year with the club, he hit 22 home runs, the seventh time in his career he hit at least twenty, and drove in over 100 runs for the fourth time. Prior to the 1969 season, he was dealt back to the Cardinals, and he finished his playing career with one more season there.
Although White played much of his career in the second dead-ball era, his batting averages stayed high till near the end of his career. He also hit 65 triples in his career.
After his playing days ended, White was a New York Yankees broadcaster from 1971 to 1988, teaming with Phil Rizzuto.
White earned a sports program on KMOX radio in St. Louis while he was still playing for the Cardinals. After he was traded to the Phillies, he did a program there. Later, White joined the New York Yankees broadcast crew. He called Yankee games from 1971 to 1988, most often with Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer. He did radio as well as television during most of that stretch. Bill White was the first African-American to do play-by-play regularly for a major-league sports team. While in Philadelphia, White became the first African-American to broadcast NHL hockey when he called several Flyers' games.
On New York City radio, White was featured on WMCA from 1971 to 1977, after which the Yankees switched over to WINS. In 1981, the Yankee broadcast team moved over to WABC. On television, White worked with Rizzuto and Messer on WPIX.
On October 2, 1978, calling the American League East championship playoff game on WPIX-TV, White authored one of baseball's most famous calls—that of Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent's home run in the seventh inning against the host Boston Red Sox:
“ Deep to left! Yastrzemski will not get it -- it's a home run! A three-run home run for Bucky Dent and the Yankees now lead it by a score of three to two! ”
White also did sports reports for the CBS Radio Network and helped call several World Series for CBS Radio (along with Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Ross Porter and later, Jack Buck). He also did pre-game reports for the ABC coverage of the 1977 Series, also along with Porter, and handled the post-game trophy presentation for ABC after the Yanks clinched the world title in the sixth game.
WPIX and its usual Rizzuto-Messer-White broadcast trifecta carried the ALCS in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1981, providing New York viewers a local alternative to the nationally-broadcast telecasts.
President of the National League
In 1989, he was named President of the National League when Bart Giamatti vacated the position to move up to become Commissioner of Baseball, and he became the highest-ranking black ever in professional sports. During his five year tenure, he presided over the expansion of the major leagues in 1993.
White was inducted into the Trumbull (OH) County Sports Hall of Fame on October 16, 2005.
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