Monday, April 11, 2011
#135 - Roy White
Roy White grew up in Compton in LA and worked his way through high school and Compton Junior College while also playing baseball. That means he was a tough bird. Signed by the Yankees in '61 as a second baseman, he would play exclusively that while working his way up the minors. An excellent fundamental player on offense he got into trouble average-wise when he made the jump from D ball to B ball in his first season and also at Double A in '64 when he tried to park the ball too much and overswung. But in between he hit .309 in A ball in '63 and then had a big '65 in Double A in which he hit .300 with 19 homers. By the end of that season he was up in NY playing the outfield since Bobby Richardson was still the man at second. In his late season trial Roy hit well and then - since Richardson appeared to be sticking around - did some Fall IL work at third base.Then in '66 lots of injuries to the regulars kept Roy in the outfield. While he didn't hit terribly well, neither did anyone else on that team and so he was back for '67. But that year he was moved around a bunch, playing third as well as outfield, and that movement affected his offense as well as his defense so he moved down to Triple A to get more experience at third. There he had a huge season, hitting .343 with a .420 OBA and in '68 Ralph Houk got the message and made Roy his permanent left fielder. He would start there the next 11 years and in '68 Roy's numbers took a huge upswing. They would have done so again in '69 had he not lost time to the military. In that year and in '70 - probably his best offensive year - Roy would make the All-Star team. His defense was superb; during the three seasons from '70 to '72 he made only four errors while playing pretty much every day. In '71 he fielded flawlessly. That year he also set a record for sacrifice flies with 17. In '72 and '73 Roy would be moved around the lineup a bit with the acquisition of power guys Graig Nettles and Jim Ray Hart and his average suffered. But the move to Shea for the '74 and '75 seasons worked well for Roy even though it wrecked some of the other outfielders. His average popped - .275 and .290 - and he performed very well defensively in a horrible outfield in which to play.
In '76 the long NY performance drought ended with the acquisitions of Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, and others and Roy would lead the league in runs while earning his first post-season appearances. He had a very nice series against the Royals then sort of collapsed with the rest of his team against the Reds. He was again a starter in '77 but got almost zero time in the post-season that year which irked a bunch of his teammates, even Reggie. In '78 Roy spent some time on the DL and got benched a few times. In the midst of the big Yankee comeback, though, he was again made the regular left fielder and responded well, hitting over .320 the rest of the season with nearly an RBI a game. That year he had a very good post-season and won a game in the Series against LA with a homer. In '79 the Yanks would not renew Roy's contract and after a sub-par partial season he left as a free agent. Instead of signing with another ML team, Roy went to Japan for three seasons and did well. In 1980 he hit .300 with 29 homers and 106 RBIs, getting to play with Sadahuro Oh in his final season. In '81 he hit 23 dingers and in '82 he hit .296 with 12 homers as a reserve. He then called it quits both in Japan and the US. For his career Roy hit .271 with 160 homers and 758 RBIs. He also stole 233 bases and got on base at a .360 clip In the post-season he hit .278 with a .387 OBA in 25 games.
After he left Japan, White took a year off and was back in NY as a coach from '83 to '86. He then performed various functions for the team through the late '90s. In '99 he moved to Oakland to coach for a few years, returning to NY to perform various roles in 2004. He also started an organization, roywhitefoundation.org, linked to on the name, that raises money to get inner-city kids to college.
Roy is Paris' great uncle which has been a pain for him publicity-wise (just kidding). Roy had a great stance: he used to bat pigeon-toed which I believe he did initially to help keep him from over-swinging. He gets some props here for his switch-hitting and retired as second to Mickey Mantle for a bunch of team switch-hitting records. In "The Bronx Zoo" Sparky called Roy a class act, which was pretty much seconded by everyone he played with.
Yankee and Menke almost rhyme. They hook up via another former NY guy:
1. White and Clete Boyer '66 Yankees;
2. Boyer and Denis Menke '67 Braves.