When writing these profiles of players I first jot down my thoughts on them- then look at the stats from baseball reference then read up a little on them. My thoughts on Roy White- exactly what I ended up reading. Roy White- solid, dependable, quiet, high character, unassuming, great teammate, no drama a class individual.
Roy White played his entire 15 years career in New York as a Yankee. People have always seemed to claim players in New York are overrated because they play for the Yankees. If anything Roy White was underrated. He was a very steady good ballplayer who wasn’t a big home run hitter- the most he hit in a season was 22, never hit .300 in a season-his best season was .296 but he was one of those players who was always out there every day quietly contributing he could steal bases- every full season he had double digits in steals and could draw a walk .360 lifetime on base percentage. Not flashy or spectacular but steady as they come.
For the Yankees White played left field, He was a switch hitter who threw right-handed. Roy White’s career was unique- it started in 1965, the beginning of the decline of the great Yankees- but The Mick, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and Elston Howard were still there but in the last years of their careers. White’s final season was 1979- the Yankees having rebuilt and won two World Series in 1977 and 1978.
Roy White grew up in Compton, California. In high school he helped form a double play combination with future MLB star Reggie Smith- Smith was the shortstop and White the second baseman. White was offered scholarships from the big schools in California, some to play baseball others to play football but he decided to sign with the New York Yankees instead for $4,000. He got called up in 1965 and played in 14 games before making the club in 1966 and playing on a semi-regular basis. The heart of his career would be the years from 1968-77.
Early on much was expected of White. The Yankee dynasty was over and White was one of the big hopes of the next generation. He would hit cleanup in the battling order to give protection to the aging Mickey Mantle who was moved to 3rd in the order. White wasn’t a big power hitter. He was 5’10” 160. Not a big fellow. He had decent power but was out of place if you were looking for a big banger. His best seasons were 1969, 1970 and 1971 – he made the All-Star team in 69 and 70.. In 1969 the year of this card- he hit 7 home runs, knocked in 74 RBI and hit .290.
White was a good all around player. He could steal bases-he stole in double digits in every year except his first and last season when he didn’t get much playing time.
In the early 70’s when Billy Virden was the manager, Virden tried to make White a part time Designated Hitter- which didn’t suit White’s talents but when Billy Martin took over it was a perfect marriage- White was the kind of player Martin liked and put him #2 in the batting order and back in left field. White’s thrived under Martin. He was great at doing the little things- moving the runners over, stealing a base, perfect for Billy Martin’s style of managing. Also, during the mid- to late 70’s in The Bronx Zoo- with all the craziness going on with the Yankees- White was sanity. Billy Martin could just pencil him in to bat second and play left field and never had a worry. If only Reggie Jackson had White’s character.
The great Mickey Mantle once said of White- ” One of the most underrated players in baseball. He hits for power and average, walks a lot and he could steal bases, sacrifice, hit behind the runner and play the field well.”
White led the American League in several categories during his career- not exciting categories but ones that help teams win games. In 1972 in walks, in 1969 and 1971 in sacrifice flies, in 1970 and 1973 he played in all 162 games, led the league in runs in 1976. Roy White’s career numbers- 160 home runs, 758 RBI’s .271 batting average, a .360 on base percentage, 233 stolen bases. I love the new stats- and his WAR 46.8 is better than some Hall of Famers, not that I think White should be in the Hall of Fame. He had a great batting eye- 934 career walks compared to 768 strikeouts. The bottom line with Roy White is he was a winner and the Yankees knew it and kept him his entire MLB career.
In 1979 his career was winding down with the Yankees and he signed to play for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. The Giants were the Yankees of Japan. Once he hit 4th in the line up to protect Mickey Mantle, on the Giants he would bat forth as protection for the great Japanese slugger-Sadaharu Oh. White would become a very popular player in Japan in the three seasons he played there.
After his baseball playing career ended he went back to the Yankees first as a coach, then assistant to the GM, as a roving instructor in the Yankees minor league system and as a scout. He served as a batting coach with the AAA Oakland team in 1999 before going back to the Yankees as a coach and instructor in 2004.
White started the Roy White Foundation in 2002 to help children and young adults in the New York City area who wanted to go to college but didn’t have the financial means. Roy White is now 74 years old. The final word on Roy White comes from his teammate with the Yankees Reggie Jackson “”Sometimes management can’t accept his kind of player because they’re looking for loud players, guys who do things in a big way. If you really don’t watch him, and you really don’t figure out what he does, he can easily be overlooked. But his biggest asset to the club, is that here’s a guy who’s going to do his job and not make mental mistakes, a guy who will bunt, hit a grounder to the other side to advance a runner, hit a sacrifice fly, get you a quiet single and get on base.”