Like every institution, the Hall of Fame has its flaws. The most glaring flaw that circulates the halls of Cooperstown is the neglect to acknowledge a third of the game of baseball. Essentially, baseball can be broken down into three major categories: pitching, offense and defense. Of these three categories, the Hall of Fame has cast a cold shoulder to defense while electing in pitchers and sluggers. However, when the Hall of Fame rectified their neglect of leather with the induction of Bill Mazeroski, the induction was panned. Frank White, who is quite comparable to Maz, has had his leather shunned by the folks in Cooperstown who regard defense as a minor aspect of the game.
An eight-time Gold Glove winner, Frank was the greatest success that came out of Royals owner Ewing Kaufman’s baseball academy. Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon for team’s to own academies, usually in the Dominican, which essentially was the brainchild of Kaufman. White refined his game at the Royals academy, going undrafted out of college, and became the pinnacle of defensive excellence at the second base position.
White was called up in 1973 and was used as a supersub. The Royals were grooming Frank to take the aging Cookie Rojas’ second base post. When Frank scored more runs than Cookie on 100 fewer at-bats in 1975, the Royals knew the time for Frank to takeover on a regular basis was now. The second base job was his in 1976 and Frank recorded 390 assists. The following year, 1977, Frank won the first of eight Gold Gloves, fielding his position at a .989 clip: the average second baseman fielded at a .978 clip.
Although White had an exceptional glove, he also brought more to the field than his leather. Bill Mazeroksi was a glove-man, period; Frank White was a glove-man who could run well and hit for modest power, bringing more dimensions to the field than the Hall of Fame defensive wiz. In ’77, Frank swiped 23 bases while leading the Royals to an AL West title. In the ALCS, Frank hit .278 but his Royals fell to the Yankees.
Frank established himself as a premier defender but showed that he had plenty of thunder in his bat as well in 1978, coming in second among AL second basemen in slugging average. In ’79, he and Bobby Grich were the only American League second basemen to reach double digits in homeruns.
In 1980, Frank sported a fancy .988 fielding percentage while participating in over 100 double plays. He hit .264 – winning his fourth straight Gold Glove – for the AL champion Royals. White was named the ALCS MVP when he tortured Yankee pitchers – hitting them for a .545 average. In the World Series, Frank didn’t have as much luck with Phillies pitchers as he did the Yankee hurlers, and the Royals fell in the Fall Classic.
Frank made his third All-Star appearance in 1981 while copping his fifth straight Gold Glove award. In ’82, he would win his sixth straight Gold Glove and appear in yet another All-Star Game. 1982 also began a string of six straight years in which he smacked over ten homeruns. His .469 slugging average in ’82 led all Major League second basemen and he finished second in the AL with 45 doubles.
Sporting a superior glove, modest power and above average wheels, Frank was as good a talent as you could ask for in a second baseman. However, White added a new dimension to his game – driving in runs – in 1983 when he topped all Major League second basemen with 77 RBI. He followed up that campaign by hitting .271 in ’84 and leading all second basemen with 17 homeruns.
The Royals won the pennant in 1985 with Frank clubbing 22 homeruns – more than any other AL second baseman – and driving in 69 runs. In a World Series triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals, Frank led all participants in runs batted in. After trying on his World Series ring, Frank carried his power into 1986 and had a terrific year, hitting 22 homers again while driving in 84 runs. Frank, who led all 2B in slugging average in ’86, was the only second baseman in the Majors to hit over 20 homeruns. Despite elevating his run production, Frank’s defense didn’t take a hit. He fielded at a .987 clip in ’86 while his peers averaged .981.
Still productive in 1987 at the age of 36, White led AL second basemen in homeruns and RBI. That year he won his eighth and final Gold Glove as he began to slow down in 1988 and retired after the 1990 season.
The only player in the Hall of Fame comparable to Frank White is Bill Mazeroski. Now, Maz was the preeminent defender of his time, but so was White. Frank also brought plenty more to the table than Maz. Maz had no speed, swiping 27 bases in his career while White pilfered 178. White also had more power, hitting 160 career long balls and slugging .383 while Maz launched 138 homers and slugged .367. Defensively, there is little separating the two. They each won eight Gold Gloves in their careers. White’s career fielding average is .984 (a point higher than Mazeroski’s) and Maz had two years when he committed over 20 errors at second base – White had none.
G 2,324/R 912/H 2,006/2B 407/3B 58/HR 160/RBI 886/SB 178/BA .255/SA .383