Published on December 22nd, 2011 | by Leonard Jackson0
What a Shame
It’s a shame Frank White has decided to close out his Royal’s legacy by staging a classless pity party and once again playing his “Rodney Dangerfield Card” claiming the organization didn’t show him proper respect. Frank has made this claim several times in the past and this time it was because they failed to renew his contract to do color commentary on their television baseball network for the coming 2012 season. He’s through with them he says. They thought he was too negative in his remarks he claims. Well count me in as one who agrees with the Royals and their radio partners for once – the shows were lousy. And even worse, they were not entertaining. There is only one reason that owners of a radio broadcast make changes. They are not happy with the size of the listening audience. That’s the reason and the only reason that the contract wasn’t renewed and to my knowledge not a single sponsor has complained.
White was unquestionably one of the best fielding second basemen that ever played the game. It’s an inspiring story. Grew up in walking distance to the old Municipal Stadium when it was home to the Royals, (actually worked on a construction crew building the new Kauffman Stadium); tried out and won a spot in the new Royals’ Youth Baseball Academy; was called up in 1973 and was with the team through the 1990 season. Parts of eighteen seasons!
But neither his contributions on the field nor his compelling personal story should necessarily qualify him for a job that he was simply not very good at. I know the KC Star, not surprisingly, has taken the position that those Big Bad Royals threw him out. Yael Abouhalkah, columnist at the Star, decried the decision and stated White’s commentary taught him a great deal about the way the game is played. Frank has spoken out about the unfairness of it all.
I’m not up on Mr. Abouhalkah’s background nor his familiarity with the game, but if he learned something from these tidbits from Mr. White he was at the basic level of expertise and if he continued to listen and learn all season, he must be a real slow learner.
The truth is, he was simply not an entertaining color guy (just remember how Paul Splittorff did the job) and he and Ryne Lefebvre spent a good deal of time second guessing manager’s decisions and players bad mental judgments. With Frank it was like a Ban Johnson League coach explaining the fundamentals of the game. His dearth of descriptive expressions resulted in a repetitious litany that when repeated five or six times a game for 162 games could cause us viewers to mute the sound on the TV and switch to Denny Matthews for the audio. If I heard him say “He didn’t try to do too much” once I heard it a thousand times.
In all fairness Frank had no broadcasting experience. Actually, he was asked to fill in for an ailing Paul Splittorff for a few games while Splitt recovered from a throat disorder, but when the illness proved to be more serious and Splitt was unable to resume his duties, the Royals allowed Frank to continue in the role.
When Splittorff decided to retire from baseball, he set out to become a sports announcer and he learned his trade from the bottom up. He took any job available starting with high school football games, in press boxes not exactly major league caliber, graduated to college sports, sometimes in near empty arenas with the UMKC Roos, and after several years apprentice service he joined the Royals as colorman/play-by-play announcer. He was professional, comfortable at the mike and had a wry sense of humor that was informative and entertaining. With Splitt you felt like you were sitting in the stands with a beer with him and learning about the intricacies of the game that you had never thought of. I have been known to keep watching one of the many hopeless games just to hear Splitt’s comments.
As for the complaint that the broadcasts were too negative, all home town announcers are obviously fans of the team that pays them, but professionals like Mathews and Splittorff can get their opinions across without disparaging the participants. I’ve heard both of these guys get mad and say some pretty derogatory things when circumstances called for it. One occasion comes to mind when Splitt saw two or three Royals yucking it up in the dugout when the team was in last place (as usual) and behind by ten runs or so. He came down pretty hard on them for their lack of respect for the game and he kept at it for several innings – he couldn’t let it go. But none of these comments were negative about the obvious human errors that happen in any competition. Second guessing is neither informative nor enlightening.
It’s hard to understand Frank’s concern about the lack of respect he has been shown. I’m not carrying the Royals’ water here but give me a break! He is contemplating having his statue removed from Kauffman stadium and his number “unretired” and also removed. Yes his statue! Of the thousands of players who have worn a Royals uniform, George Brett’s is the only other statue the team has seen fit to display.
Here’s a guy that they hired and paid well for nearly twenty years. They have retired his number and put it on display on the outfield fence at Kauffman Stadium. And they have placed a statue of him at the entrance. And he “gets no respect?”
The Royals aren’t the ones who look bad in this drama.