Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 87

After the 1965 season, the Phillies acquired first baseman Bill White from the Cardinals in an effort to solidify a sluggish offense that batted just .250 with a .697 OPS the previous season. In the deal, the Phillies sent catcher Pat Corrales, pitcher Art Mahaffey and outfielder Alex Johnson to St. Louis for White, catcher Bob Uecker and shortstop Dick Groat.

White had broken into the Majors at age 22 with the New York Giants in 1956. In his rookie season, White posted solid numbers, batting .256, slugging 22 homers, driving in 56 runs and stealing 15 bases in 138 games.

Following the Giants' move to San Francisco, White was traded to St. Louis in a 4-player deal. Bill White went on to be named to the National League All-star team in each of his first three seasons with the Cardinals.

In 1962, White began a string of three consecutive seasons in which he accomplished the rare feat of batting over .300 while driving in 100 or more runs, including the 1964 season, when he finished third in NL Most Valuable Player voting, behind Philadelphia's Johnny Callison and the winner, his teammate, Ken Boyer. That year, White batted .303, mashed 21 homers, drove in 102 runs and scored 92 times.

Later, as a member of the Phillies in 1966, White would win a Gold Glove Award. To this day, he is still the only first baseman in team history to score that honor. He also came up big at the plate to help the Phillies, adding some left-handed power to Richie Allen's pop from the right side. That season, White hit 22 homeruns and drove in 103 runs to go along with his .276 batting average.

White's offensive prowess and defensive excellence made him one of the most complete first basemen in Phillies history.

Unfortunately for White, he tore his Achilles tendon playing racquetball over the 1966-1967 off-season. That kept him out of action for a portion of the 1967 season and limited him to pinch hitting action once he returned from the injury.

White lasted through the 1968 season with the Phillies, but he never fully rebounded from the injury and his offensive production was minimal.

Just prior to the 1969 season, White returned to St. Louis in a deal for utility man Jim Hutto and infielder Jerry Buchek. That would be his final season as a player, however, as he retired after playing in just 49 games in 1969.

In 1970, White would turn to broadcasting full time. During his playing days in both St. Louis and Philadelphia, White hosted sports programs on the radio. White later joined the Yankees broadcasting team after legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell heard White doing play-by-play for a college basketball game and recommended him for the assignment in New York. He would call games with Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer throughout the 70's and 80's.

In 1989, Bill White was named as the President of the National League, becoming the highest ranking black executive in all of major professional sports. However, by 1994, White left his position, openly stating his frustration level working with team owners.

Today, White resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and stays connected to baseball by serving on committees for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
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