ANAHEIM — Fred White, a Royals radio voice for 25 years, died Wednesday due to complications from melanoma, a day after announcing his retirement following a 40-year relationship with the club.
White teamed with Denny Matthews on broadcasts from 1973-98, and since had served as the team’s director of broadcast services and the Royals Alumni.
His retirement was due to health issues, and he died in hospice care.
“Fred White has been synonymous with Royals baseball as long as anybody can remember,” Mike Swanson, Royals vice president of communications and broadcasting, when the team announced White’s retirement.
“There are so many people in Kansas City who, when they hear a voice, they knew it was Royals baseball, and Fred was that voice along with Denny for so many years. He had a huge influence on my life back in the ’70s, and I’m personally honored that I had a chance to work with him when I came back to town and wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
An Illinois native who attended Eastern Illinois University, White was a sports anchor at WIBW-TV in Topeka, covering Kansas State athletics, before joining the Royals in 1973. He also was the voice of the Big 8, later called the Big 12 on the television network for Kansas State basketball games.
The popular broadcaster was frequently summoned for national gigs by ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and Turner Sports.
“We both grew up in central Illinois, so we were kind of out of the same litter bag. We always got along great, I enjoyed his sense of humor. He was real easy to work with and we had a lot of laughs,” said Matthews, who continues calling radio games.
“We got to see the glory days of the Royals, too, because he came in right when Buddy [Blattner] left in the mid-’70s and that’s just when the Royals were getting ready to ignite and take off. Perfect timing. We saw all those great playoff games, and the Yankee-Royal battles in even the regular-season games were very well played and very competitive. Those games kind of set up everything for the playoffs.”
Basketball also was one of White’s passions.
“He did K-State football and basketball for a lot of years, I guess when he was with WIBW,” Matthews said. “He was still in Topeka at the time. I’d drive over and leave my car, and we’d go over to Manhattan and he’d do a basketball game, and that’s when I got to meet [coach] Jack Hartman. We’d go over to Hartman’s house after the basketball game, we’d drive back to Topeka and I’d drive back to Kansas City.”
After leaving the Royals booth, White became a fixture in the team offices and headed the Royals Radio Network, which has grown to be one of the largest in Major League Baseball.
White also took a leading role in bringing former players into an active presence at Kauffman Stadium and in the community.
“After he finished a 25-year broadcast career, he was a tremendous asset to the organization because he brought the alumni together,” said former pitcher Jeff Montgomery. “There were a number of alums who kind of felt alienated from the organization for one reason or another, and Fred recognized that the alumni were a significant asset to the organization.”
Montgomery, now himself a TV broadcaster, called White a visionary for forming the alumni group, which now includes more than 40 former players, managers and trainers in the Kansas City area alone.
“He was the voice for saying, ‘Let’s find a way to make these guys love to come back to the ballpark and love to be part of this great organization,’” Montgomery said. “You have to credit the Royals for helping make this come true, because the organization committed significant resources to make this happen.”
The Royals Alumni now hold clinics, make community appearances and participate in the Royals Fantasy Camp.
There were no details regarding funeral arrangements when the Royals announced White’s passing.