Somehow, a baseball game is just better on radio than it can ever be on television. The game’s pace lends itself to radio. There is time to weave stories around pitches and at-bats that make announcers iconic figures. In the days before every Major League game could be viewed on television or internet, radio announcers were the eyes of all those listening to a broadcast that spread over many state lines for fans far from the ballpark.
Fred White will always be one of those voices meant to call a baseball game. Two very important people in my life would certainly agree. My mother loved baseball. One of my earliest memories in life is playing in the basement of our home as my mother would take care of the laundry and iron clothes. If it was summer, a baseball game was on the radio.
Eventually, we began to listen to those game together. We would sit on our porch or in our back yard listening to the Royals’ games. It was Denny and Fred. Matthews and White, but the voice we loved was always White’s. I was working for the Royals while working in Topeka in the late 70’s and then again in the 80’s. During road trips, I often found myself sitting with my mother tuned into the game. She would ask me about players as White would detail each play with his smooth and unassuming style. Those nights took on even more importance after the untimely passing of my father.
Just as important was the time I spent with one of my best friends, Mark Nordstrom, a huge Royals fan. We sat on his porch, beers in hand, listening to games. While games wore on, we delved into everything imaginable until crunch time. Then it was baseball and only baseball. In those days as the Royals flourished, our evenings often ended with Nordstrom dancing a jig of delight over a KC victory.
It would be foolhardy to attempt to add much to the litany of praise White is receiving after losing his fight against cancer. I knew White for 44 years. From the time I began my newspaper photography career, White was always a friend. White was working for WIBW at the time and befriended me from the start. Besides our work, we both shared a passion for playing fast pitch softball.
Later after his move to the Royals’ broadcast booth, White went out of his way to have me join him a few times during spring training to discuss how the team looked to me through a telephoto lens. Many of those afternoon broadcasts were tape delayed until the evening in Topeka. White always reminded me to call my parents to let them know their son was going to be on the radio.
With his passing, many are recalling the wonderful White and the influence his radio voice had on listeners for so many years. No one has a bad word to say about the man. I knew it then, as I still do today. Fred White made those moments with my mother and my friend even more special.