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Monday, March 28, 2011

RetroSimba: Bill White interviewed about autobiography

Uppity: My Untold Story About The Games People Play...Looks like a winner and I hope he tells the “Whitey” Whitey Ford story.

Q: In May 1960, you set a career high with 6 RBI in a game at the L.A. Coliseum, hitting two home runs, both off Don Drysdale. Your career batting average against Drysdale was .326 with seven home runs. Why were you so successful against him?

Bill White: Because he threw spitballs. It actually was oil he kept on the back of his hair. And when you loaded the ball up, it sunk. And I was a low-ball hitter. He was throwing to my strength.

Q: In the spring of 1961, you took a courageous stand against the segregationist practices going on during spring training in St. Petersburg, Fla. Players were separated in living quarters according to race. A yearly community business breakfast invited only white players, not blacks. You made enormous progress in getting things changed. How were you able to do that?

...St. Louis at that time was one of the most segregated cities in the major leagues. But they sold Budweiser beer, which owned the Cardinals. The black people in St. Louis said, ‘They aren’t treating our kids right. We’re going to boycott Budweiser.’

That was a perfect storm. No. 1, a private business club in St. Petersburg not allowing blacks in, and, No. 2, all of a sudden there was a possibility Budweiser would get boycotted in St. Louis and it might spread all over the country.

So I think that had a part in August Busch saying, ‘We better do something about this. We better nip this in the bud.’ So the next year everything was integrated.

Repoz Posted: March 28, 2011 at 10:00 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers, books, cardinals, giants, history, television, yankees

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   1. Leroy Kincaid Posted: March 28, 2011 at 11:07 AM (#3779456)
Whiteys, you huckleberries.
   2. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 28, 2011 at 12:02 PM (#3779462)
and we'll get to hear the "bob-gibson-hit-me-on-the-elbow" story, no doubt
   3. winnipegwhip Posted: March 28, 2011 at 01:56 PM (#3779500)
Doesn he talk about beating the Russians in 1972. Or how tough it was to lose to the Habs in the finals in the early 70's?
   4. Jose Canusee Posted: March 28, 2011 at 04:22 PM (#3779688)
August Busch saying, ‘We better do something about this. We better nip this in the bud

We got it, was he smiling when he said that?
   5. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 28, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#3779704)
Bill White: Because he threw spitballs. It actually was oil he kept on the back of his hair. And when you loaded the ball up, it sunk. And I was a low-ball hitter. He was throwing to my strength.

Is this common knowledge? I've never heard this about Drysdale.
   6. Steve Treder Posted: March 28, 2011 at 04:43 PM (#3779722)
Is this common knowledge?

Uh, yeah.

Apparently you're too young to remember the Vitalis commercial featuring Drysdale and Herman Franks. "Grease ball! Grease ball! He's throwing a grease ball!"

Willie McCovey, another left-handed low-ball hitter, also famously owned Drysdale.
   7. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 28, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#3779732)
Huh. And yet, he's in the Hall of Fame where I've been told cheaters aren't welcome.
   8. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 28, 2011 at 04:47 PM (#3779734)
Willie McCovey, another left-handed low-ball hitter, also famously owned Drysdale.

he sure did (McCovey, I can see, but Wes Covington??!!)
   9. Steve Treder Posted: March 28, 2011 at 04:53 PM (#3779746)
Covington could freaking rake.

Drysdale was a big, tall side-arming right-hander with a sweeping curve and a sinking fastball (that was widely suspected of being aided by a foreign substance). Coming in by way of the third base coach's box, he was extremely tough on RHBs, but the few guys who could hit him were generally LHBs.
   10. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 28, 2011 at 04:55 PM (#3779749)
he sure did (McCovey, I can see, but Wes Covington??!!)

<Yakov Smirnoff voice>

In Dodger Stadium, Willie spanks you!

<end Yakov Smirnoff voice>
   11. toratoratora Posted: March 28, 2011 at 05:02 PM (#3779761)
Coming in by way of the third base coach's box, he was extremely tough on RHBs, but the few guys who could hit him were generally LHBs.


Looks like being named Willie didn't hurt either...
   12. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: March 28, 2011 at 05:24 PM (#3779790)
Looks like being named Willie didn't hurt either...


Willie Virdon and Willie White agree!
   13. Repoz Posted: March 28, 2011 at 05:42 PM (#3779811)
Covington could freaking rake.

Without a doubt...even his cards freaking show that!.
   14. bjhanke Posted: March 28, 2011 at 08:57 PM (#3780038)
It's easy to get overheated about Covington. I did when I was a kid and watching him play. His totals look good, but there are two weaknesses: 1) He didn't walk much, because he would swing at anything. This probably helped against Drysdale, who was trying to get his fastball to look like it was going to be a strike, but then sink. If you're used to hitting out of the zone, a pitcher whose edge is that he throws out of the zone doesn't bother you much. But overall, his OBP isn't much for someone with his AVG. 2) He was a platoon player, which I had no sense of at all while he was active. Look at his splits. He has a huge playing time advantage against RHP, and didn't hit LHP at all. That's why his career high in Games Played is 129. He wasn't hurt all the time; he was platooned. If he had been a righty, I don't think he could have stayed in the game for as long as he did. But there are more RHP than LHP, so he was on the good side of platooning. But still, he was a platoon player for his entire career, and his totals and especially his rates are inflated by that bias. He's one of the players whose analysis would most benefit by adjusting for platoon time. He'd look worse, but that would be accurate. - Brock Hanke
   15. Steve Treder Posted: March 28, 2011 at 09:20 PM (#3780064)
Sure, Covington was a platoon player. (And he couldn't field to save his life, either.) But so what? Every player has his strengths and weaknesses. And Covington's strength was that he could hit the hell out of right-handed pitching. A career OPS+ of 121 in over 1,000 games is a guy who really adds some offensive value.
   16. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM (#3780090)
Coming in by way of the third base coach's box, he was extremely tough on RHBs, but the few guys who could hit him were generally LHBs.


Looks like being named Willie didn't hurt either...

Or Hammerin' Hank, with a career OPS of .925.

---------------------------------------

Sure, Covington was a platoon player. (And he couldn't field to save his life, either.)

Ah, but he saved the Braves' bacon in the '57 World Series when he preserved Lew Burdette's 1-0 shutout in game 5 with this circus catch, and before that he'd made another game-preserving catch in game 2. Those catches may only register as simple "FO-7" on the scoresheet, but without them the Yankees might well have won that Series in five games.

And yeah, he wasn't much of a fielder in general, but neither was Ron Swoboda.
   17. Steve Treder Posted: March 28, 2011 at 10:04 PM (#3780100)
And yeah, he wasn't much of a fielder in general, but neither was Ron Swoboda.

Good point. Nor was Sandy Amoros any kind of Gold Glover.
   18. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 28, 2011 at 10:21 PM (#3780118)
He was a platoon player, which I had no sense of at all while he was active. Look at his splits. He has a huge playing time advantage against RHP, and didn't hit LHP at all. That's why his career high in Games Played is 129. He wasn't hurt all the time; he was platooned. If he had been a righty, I don't think he could have stayed in the game for as long as he did. But there are more RHP than LHP, so he was on the good side of platooning. But still, he was a platoon player for his entire career, and his totals and especially his rates are inflated by that bias. He's one of the players whose analysis would most benefit by adjusting for platoon time. He'd look worse, but that would be accurate.


Covington's 1965 Strat-O-Matic card is among the most extreme I've ever seen - against left-handers, he doesn't have a single hit chance on his card...
   19. phredbird Posted: March 28, 2011 at 10:23 PM (#3780119)
And yeah, he wasn't much of a fielder in general, but neither was Ron Swoboda.


ichiro! woulda had it in his pocket!
   20. Steve Treder Posted: March 28, 2011 at 10:29 PM (#3780128)
Covington's 1965 Strat-O-Matic card is among the most extreme I've ever seen - against left-handers, he doesn't have a single hit chance on his card...

Given that he went 0-for-20 against LHP that year, it would appear that Strat-O was just presenting the facts.

Gene Mauch didn't pussyfoot around when it came to platooning. Lots of his teams had LHBs who virtually never came to bat against LHPs.
   21. Bruce Markusen Posted: March 28, 2011 at 10:54 PM (#3780145)
I'm really looking forward to reading the Bill White book. He was a terrific announcer for the Yankees in the seventies and eighties, adept at doing both color and play-by-play. When I was young and listening to those Yankee broadcasts, I had always thought that he was just a fringe player, but he had some damn fine seasons for the Cardinals and Giants. He becomes even more impressive in light of his efforts to speed up some of the integration efforts of baseball in regards to spring training and hotels and such. A good man, all in all.
   22. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 28, 2011 at 11:38 PM (#3780160)
Bill White was a d****d good player. He was unlucky early in his career; after a decent rookie season he had to serve a two-year hitch in the military and by the time he got back Orlando Cepeda was on his way to being the rookie of the year at age 20, and McCovey was raking the h**l out of the ball in AAA, also as a 20-YO; there just wasn't anywhere for White to play and he wound up being trade bait - a deal that paid off short-term for SF as Toothpick Sam Jones won 21 in 1959 and led the league in ERA, but worked out very well in the long haul for the Cardinals. White was durable, an outstanding baserunner and fielder (good enough to play CF for about a month at the beginning of 1960), and a leader on and off the field.

-- MWE
   23. Steve Treder Posted: March 28, 2011 at 11:45 PM (#3780166)
White was durable, an outstanding baserunner and fielder (good enough to play CF for about a month at the beginning of 1960), and a leader on and off the field.

Absolutely right. There's really not a thing not to like about Bill White.
   24. AndrewJ Posted: March 29, 2011 at 12:04 AM (#3780171)
And Bill's career looks even better when you neutralize his stats in BBRef. He picked the wrong decade to try to be a .300-caliber hitter.

Bill James in his Cooperstown book said that White would make a decent HOF choice (given his playing career plus National League presidency) "although he is not well liked." Then again, you don't broadcast Yankee games for 18 seasons without having or developing some social skills.
   25. Steve Treder Posted: March 29, 2011 at 12:14 AM (#3780172)
Bill James in his Cooperstown book said that White would make a decent HOF choice (given his playing career plus National League presidency) "although he is not well liked."

That's the kind of James comment that makes you scratch your head. (And it's one of James's quirks that makes him maddening, and yet all the more interesting.) White as a player was hugely liked and respected in every account, mature, intelligent, the kind of ballplayer who took college courses in the off-season. He was articulate enough to go quickly into a long broadcasting career, and then to become the president of the NL, which no matter how much a ceremonial or figurehead role one might want to call it, was clearly not a job one could be given if he weren't well-liked. White's career path demonstrated nothing if not social and "political" skill, the art of making oneself well-liked.
   26. Repoz Posted: March 29, 2011 at 12:25 AM (#3780174)
White was durable, an outstanding baserunner

In one of those early 60's "Best Players of" books, author Ray Robinson called Bill White the fastest player in the NL.
   27. Steve Treder Posted: March 29, 2011 at 12:29 AM (#3780178)
In one of those early 60's "Best Players of" books, author Ray Robinson called Bill White the fastest player in the NL.

I used to buy those Ray Robinson books. What were they called: "Baseball Stars of 196x"?

Anyway, obviously Robinson was FOS in that claim. But the truth is that White was far more mobile than the typical power-hitting first baseman of that or any other era. He stole 16 bases at the age of 32. He could run.
   28. Repoz Posted: March 29, 2011 at 12:38 AM (#3780181)
I used to buy those Ray Robinson books. What were they called: "Baseball Stars of 196x"?

Yeah, edited by Robinson. Had Arnold Hano, Al Hirshberg, Al Silverman, Dick Schaap and many others doing excellent 4-5 page seasonal breakdown of that years top players. I mean how can you top Joey Jay: Little League Lollapalooza penned by Robinson.

I used to pilf them from my grammar school library.
   29. AndrewJ Posted: March 29, 2011 at 12:45 AM (#3780185)
White as a player was hugely liked and respected in every account, mature, intelligent, the kind of ballplayer who took college courses in the off-season. He was articulate enough to go quickly into a long broadcasting career, and then to become the president of the NL, which no matter how much a ceremonial or figurehead role one might want to call it, was clearly not a job one could be given if he weren't well-liked. White's career path demonstrated nothing if not social and "political" skill, the art of making oneself well-liked.

This. White might have occasionally been outspoken but he was never a pariah on the order of Dick Allen or even Alex Johnson.
   30. Big fan Posted: March 29, 2011 at 12:48 AM (#3780187)
Anyone who could sit in a booth listening to Rizzuto for years without punching him is a good man in my book.

Also he called the play-by-play of the the first batter of any game I ever listened to on the radio - a Horace Clark Triple in 1971. My father showed me the AL standings and said "look at that, the Yankees are playing 500 ball'. Then he taught me what that meant. That afternoon I listened to my first Yankee game and Horace Clark hit a triple leading off. I fell in love with Bill White, Frank Messer, Rizzuto, the Yankees, Horace Clarke, Bobby Murcer and Roy White. later that game Clarke hit another triple in extra innings. And I knew right then that Horace was the best player ever.

And to this day I thank my father for showing me the AL standings and not saying anything about the Mets. Could you imagine - I would now be watching my 40th year of baseball with only one championship! THANKS, ABA!
   31. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 29, 2011 at 01:04 AM (#3780194)
Anyone who could sit in a booth listening to Rizzuto for years without punching him is a good man in my book.

White was an EXCELLENT announcer--I happened to move to NYC the first year he was broadcasting, so I had the pleasure of listening to him for many years (even if he had to put up with Scooter, ("Hey, White!"))

Bill James in his Cooperstown book said that White would make a decent HOF choice (given his playing career plus National League presidency) "although he is not well liked."

White was the subject of one of James' better lines from his first "public" abstract, in 1982--talking about "number images" and someone who hit 20 HR's and got 191 hits and James said that those numbers conjured up Bill White in his mind and he wrote "I don't know if White ever got exactly 191 hits in a season, but if he didn't, he should have"

(and he did, BTW, in 1964)
   32. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: March 29, 2011 at 01:17 AM (#3780204)
Put up with Scooter?! I didn't know there were people like you in this world.
   33. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 29, 2011 at 01:49 AM (#3780213)
Put up with Scooter?! I didn't know there were people like you in this world.

there aren't--I'm from Mars (went to school with Otis Sistrunk, AAMOF)
   34. Bruce Markusen Posted: March 29, 2011 at 02:31 AM (#3780239)
Yeah, I don't know where James is coming from with his comment about White not being well-liked. He was a straight shooter as a Yankee broadcaster, and not a homer, and maybe that didn't play well with some in the Yankee organization, but he somehow managed to last nearly two decades in the Bronx. And most of those years came working for Boss George.

I've got to get a copy of that new book!

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