May 19, 2013
This feature appeared in the May 19 edition of the K-State Sports Extra
See Also: Fred White (1936-2013)
By Mark Janssen
Kansas State University lost a dear friend this week with the passing of Fred White.
The news was shocking to even those who worked with him on a daily basis within the Kansas City Royals family. Even his long-time broadcasting sidekick Denny Mathews said he was "stunned" with the death of White, which came on Wednesday from complications with melanoma.
As you know by now, it came less than 48 hours after announcing his retirement from his position as director of broadcast services and Royals' alumni.
For those relatively new to Kansas State and the Flint Hills region, White was a long-time voice and face of WIBW Radio and Television in Topeka in the 1960s and early-1970s before moving on to the Royals in 1973.
It was a time when Kansas State athletics had two outlets for its radio broadcasts in football and men's basketball.
There was the K-State Radio Network with Wildcat Hall of Famer Dev Nelson behind the microphone, while just down press row was White on WIBW, which was a state-wide radio power.
While Wildcat fans could pick and choose the voice they wanted to hear, the Nelson-White duo was anything but a rival situation. They were best of friends, always exchanging stories with each other up to the time it was time to play ball.
Often times the good-natured barbs had to do with their miniature hometowns - Nelson expressed such pride in Marquette, Kansas, as did White of Homer, Illinois.
Unlike so many announcers of today who try to be the star of a broadcast and advertise their vast knowledge of the game, White and Nelson let the game take center stage. They were story tellers. White, especially, had such a conversational-like delivery that yours truly attempted to emulate during the first decade of my play-by-play career, and even today with pen in hand.
While Dev was my mentor, in a quiet way, White was as well.
As a K-State student in the late-60s, I remember that White always had time to say hello and ask about my goals.
It was on a 1975 that my wife and I took a Royals-sponsored west coast trip for games with the A's and Angles. Dining in a sports bar, it was White, at the top of his game in Major League Baseball, who did nothing more than send over a couple drinks to a youngster just three years into his career of broadcasting Manhattan High School games.
A huge deal? No ... and he didn't intend it to be. But at that time, and still today, it advertised the caring for one and all that was a part of White's DNA. He had an appreciation for a young sportscaster trying to climb the ladder ... just as he had done in such locales as Hastings, Neb., prior to arriving in Topeka, and then Kansas City.
White's class was never more evident when the Royals removed him from the broadcast team for a younger personality in Ryan Lefebvre. It was White that rolled out the royal blue carpet for his replacement and encouraged fans to support this new radio personality that was filling his spot.
Thankfully, the Royals understood what they had in White, as the organization made sure he was taken care of with a variety of positions in the baseball family over the last 15 years.
I was so fortunate to have a lengthy one-on-one gab session with White at the Big 12 Conference basketball tournament two years ago. Dev Nelson was remembered; media personalities from the Big Eight days were subjects; along with the difference between TV to radio broadcasting; and, how the sell-out business of broadcasting had changed so much.
For certain, Fred White was a man of passion for the Wildcats/Royals and a humble man of significant class.