COOPERSTOWN, NY – It is that time of year when the Veterans Committee, now known as the Era Committee, gets to vote for the members of Major League Baseball who got shafted by the writers while they were on the ballot. One name of the ballot that stands out for me is Bill White.
White has worn many hats during his 51 years in the game. He was a 7-time Gold Glove first baseman and an 8 time All-Star. His voice was heard on WPIX telecasts whenever the New York Yankees played along with his partners in the booth, Frank Messer and Phil Rizzuto. White was also the National League President, a position he wanted no part of.
The human being of a man, White wore the label of being the first black broadcaster. You could not get any more racist when you label someone’s skin color as the cause of being the first of anything, as though skin tone matters. The label continued as he was now the first black N.L. President replacing Bart Giamatti back in 1989. White was far from being blind knowing his skin tone was a factor after baseball got a kick in its butt from racial statements out of Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis’ mouth.
Campanis appeared on Nightline and uttered the words, “They may not have some of the necessities.” He was referring to the lack of blacks in executive positions among major league teams. Baseball needed a quick band-aid and offered White the N.L. President role based on his skin tone, even though he definitely qualified.
White held the role until 1994 and when his replacement, Leonard Coleman, informed him that the owners wanted to fete him for his tenure White responded, “You can tell the owners to hell with them.” White believed the owners understood the business of baseball, but they truly didn’t understand the game.
White did enough in this game to be enshrined into Cooperstown, but that statement about the owners alone should clinch him a plaque on the wall. He’ll need at least 12 votes from the 16 person committee to make it a happy 90th birthday when he celebrates it on January 28th.