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William DeKova White
Positions: First Baseman and Outfielder
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 185 lb.
Born: January 28, 1934 in Lakewood, FL (Age 79)
High School: Warren G. Harding HS (Warren, OH)
School: Hiram College (Hiram, OH)
Signed: by the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1953.
Debut: May 7, 1956 (Age 22)
Teams: (by GP) Cardinals/Phillies/Giants 1956-1969
Final Game: September 24, 1969 (Age 35)
Born in Lakewood, Florida, in 1934, White attended Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio, before attending college at Hiram College, near Cleveland. White earned a reputation as an outspoken player almost from the moment he signed with his first major league team in 1953. Perhaps because he came to professional baseball after several years in college, he was quicker to address injustices than others, and more forceful in demanding that changes be made. As New York Times correspondent Claire Smith wrote: "Bill White has long prided himself on being a person who cannot be easily fitted into any mold. In the early 1960s, when it was safer for one's career as well as health to acquiesce quietly to the nation's Jim Crow laws, White was among a vocal minority of black players who spoke out vociferously against inadequacies at Florida spring-training sites and in minor league cities throughout the South." White originally agreed to play baseball with the New York Giants merely as a means to earn college tuition (he was enrolled in pre-med courses). He made the Giants' roster in 1956, however, and moved with the team to San Francisco, embarking on a fine 13-year career.
White hit 22 home runs as a rookie with the Giants. In 1959 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he batted .286 and played first base. The beginning of the 1965 season found White with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he played until the end of 1968. For his last season he returned to the Cardinals, performing well despite severe injuries to his Achilles tendon. His career statistics are far above the average for a sport that uses players like fodder: in 1,673 games he had 5,972 at bats, with 1,706 hits, 202 home runs, and 870 runs batted in. Six times he was named to the National League All-Star team, and seven times he brought home the Gold Glove for first base.
After retiring from baseball, White found work as a radio and television announcer in St. Louis and then in Philadelphia. Howard Cosell happened to catch White doing play-by-play for a college basketball game and recommended him to the New York Yankees. In 1971 White entered the broadcast booth with Phil Rizzuto and began 18-year tenure as the Yankees' play-by-play man for televised games. White carried his strong opinions on affirmative action with him into the booth, but he resisted using his power to become a spokesman for special interest groups. Instead he concentrated on baseball and became immensely popular with the hard-to-please Yankee fans.
His years of experience with baseball notwithstanding, White was surprised when he was approached about taking the presidency of the National League. White told the New York Times: "My first comment was, are you serious?' But in meeting with people, I found out they were dead serious. Once I knew that, we proceeded from there." White was the unanimous choice of the National League team owners to succeed A. Bartlett Giamatti, who was named Baseball Commissioner. As president of the league, White arbitrated disputes between players and umpires and supervised contracts for the league's professional players. He also determined the rules under which the teams play. Most importantly, he presided over a major expansion of major league teams, expected to bring baseball into a number of new American cities.