Frank White

December 8, 2008
A long time ago I read an article about Frank White that had some information that has stuck with me. White described a time in his playing career when the stress of holding down a major league job began to overwhelm him. He was unable, during down time away from the park, to focus on any one thing. Instead, he would have a magazine open and the TV on and the radio blaring and a record spinning on the turntable, his attention like a hummingbird trapped in an electronics store, flitting from one barren babbling source to the next, never landing anywhere, instead only becoming more and more exhausted. I may be remembering the article incorrectly, but I think Frank White saw that earlier way of living as a time when he was bordering on mental illness. Unfortunately, I can’t recall how he pulled himself out of that habit, or even be a hundred percent sure that he was recalling the everything-all-at-once episodes from a remove or rather still trying to find a way out of them. All I know for sure is that Frank White was, as this 1980 baseball card reports, an All-Star. In my mind he was as constant a presence in that annual game as anyone from his era, and since he was not a magnetic superstar such as Pete Rose or Reggie Jackson there was something even more solid about his presence in the midsummer classic than other more well-known perennial all-stars. Superstars weren’t always super, year-in and year-out, instead rising and falling and rising in magnitude and magnificence, but Frank White was always Frank White, kind of in the background, no national commercial endorsements or magazine cover spreads, a constant presence in the exalted exhibition, his prominence or role never changing. I think the reason I still remember that article that described the way he unraveled into a powerless mess at the mercy of his in-home sources of entertainment is because I am still a little disturbed that the solidity of Frank White was a mirage. Everyone, even Frank White, is clinging to the ledge by their fingernails.


  1. 1.  I remember meeting and having a picture taken with Frank White in spring training at the Old Boardwalk and Baseball facility where the Royals trained (maybe around 1985 or 1986). He was very pleasant and seemed to be a truly nice guy. That was also the year Tom Gordon was just breaking out. He showed up in a big silver Mercedes and wasn’t very pleasant to fans at all.

  2. 2.  There is a reason Frank White had his number retired by the Royals. Because he was one of our greats. I’ve heard a lot of writers joke about how a guy like White can get his number retired.

    But they don’t say it in Kansas City or in front of Royals fans. Even sports writers aren’t that stupid.

  3. 3.  I wonder if Christopher Walken’s character in King of New York was influenced in some way by this man.

  4. 4.  I felt the same was as Josh (being the same age), it seemed like Frank White had his own personal spot in the All Star game, he being firmly ensconced as the second base starter. I was surprised to just now look him up on baseball-reference and see he ‘only’ made the team five times, including four of five years from ’78 to ’82, missing out in 1980 when Willie Randolph took his spot. (BTW, wasn’t Frank White the only player to make it from the Royals’ Baseball Academy?)

    I was also surprised to look at Frank’s somewhat dismal OPS+ numbers, he only being over 100 a handful of times, mostly because he very rarely walked– something that would have escaped my notice as a kid. (Lots of Gold Gloves, though, for what they’re worth.)

  5. 5.  Frank was the best of the Academy graduates, but several other made it also.

    Rodney Scott
    U.L. Washington
    Mike Edwards
    Ron Washington

    It put 14 players in the major leagues, but I can’t find a comphrensive list of players right now. My reference material is in storage.

    Most were light-hitting middle infielders who used their speed and natural athletic ability.

  6. 6.  This is a tricky one. Some people might be saying, Okay, dugout visible, low angle shot, Yankee Stadium. Next? Ah, but look again, young card-studier. You don’t see metal bars between the seats, do you? And quite a bit of space above the heads in the dugout, eh? And if this were YS, the visible dugout would be the visiting Royals’, not a team with white unis and white-paneled hats. I’d guess this is Exhibition Stadium, home of the Blue Jays, whose home dugout was on the third base side. (Note: none of the ballpark sites seem to specify this–but I found some proof in old pictures. The Jays are still in the third base dugout at home at their current stadium, too.)

    Either that or it’s a spring training shot, but I’m goin’ with Exhibition Stadium.

    Oh and don’t be fooled by the fact that some other ’80 Royals shots ARE in YS (Al Cowens, Clint Hurdle). Compare with those to see the differences.

    So was it a coincidence there were three Candlestick cards in row, before the last one, which was a spring training shot? (I thought that one–Stanhouse–actually could’ve been Jarry Park, as it did have trees visible behind the scoreboard–but, no flagpoles, and just didn’t look very Montreal-ish, plus the fact that Full Pack only appeared in three regular season games as an Expo at home before that card came out.)

  7. 7.  The last line of this post scares the crap out of me. I’m headed towards forty, and I know EXACTLY what you (and Frank White) are talking about here.

  8. 8.  By the way, am I the only one who was endlessly thrilled to find a card with the “All Star” logo on it (like Frank White’s card has)? No matter what year, the All Star designation double or tripled my lust for a card.

  9. 9.  Hey spudrph, click on the “Paul Mather” link in the ‘Behold The Unsortable’ section – I know what book you’re talking about…

  10. 10.  Topps really had its groove on in 1980. Lots of nicely framed in-game batting stances. Also, look at the colors they used — green, blue, red, purple, pink, yellow — and it works. And as sb1902 alluded to, there was just something about the “All-Star” banner that year. I remember putting together the complete All-Star teams in a stack and slowly sifting through them, watching all those banners blend into an unbroken ribbon of All-Starness…

    So far, three cards you’ve featured have struck me on a purely aesthetic basis, and all are from ’80. White, Yaz, and Jorgenson (the best of all IMO).

  11. 11.  5 : Thanks for that info about Royals Academy players. I was wondering about that myself.

    8 : I agree about the all-star banner. Made the pack the card came in a no-doubt winner.

    10 : 1980 was indeed a great year for the cards.

    I think you might have meant Joel Youngblood, not Mike Jorgensen, who I have yet to feature (I actually think I don’t have Jorgensen’s 1980 card.)

  12. 12.  9 And thanks for pointing that out about the comment on the Paul Mather post (in “Behold the Unsortable”). I am going to get around to calling out all the newer comments on older posts soon…

  13. 13.  Yes, Youngblood!

  14. 14.  10 I was going to make a similar comment. There is something very memorable about this card (when I saw it, I distinctly remembered having it back in 1980 myself). And the aesthetics is definitely part of that.

    Overall, the card here is in perfect balance. White’s stance is slightly to the left of the frame, and that is balanced by the Royals banner on the lower right. The dark background of the dugout throw contrast to highlight the solid stance White takes. The signature runs right across the line you’d imagine White would swing through. And the All-Star banner caps it off. The only visual distraction is the disembodied catcher’s arm and mitt.

    It is a beautiful card, and I think I liked it for just that reason.

  15. 15.  Growing up in Detroit in the late 70’s early 80’s I was a huge George Brett fan and followed the Royals. They were my “Western Division” team. Tiger fans felt that Frank White ALWAYS got more attention than Lou Whitaker. They also hated the fact that his defense was aided by the smooth, George Toma groomed AstroTurf of Royals Stadium. Looking back, as solid as Frank White was…I think Sweet Lou Whitaker was the better overall second baseman in the AL.

  16. I was just marveling at Frank White’s ’75 card, and then…this! The composition of this card is ethereal…the blurry backdrop of fans, his pale bat almost obscured by them…the incredible signature, and the catcher’s glove and forearm…Royals…all-star…his upright stance…he is Frank White, proud and regal.

    He was such a consistently good player for so long, I never would have guessed he was such a nervous wreck.

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