When I heard the news that longtime Royals broadcaster Fred White decided to retire after 40 years with the Royals due to a serious health issue, I hoped he would recover from his illness and enjoy his retirement. But the next day, White died from complications from melanoma.
It’s a sad end for a broadcast legend such as White, but he lived full life a lot of folks would envy. In 1973, He began his Royals career as a part-time announcer for the Royals TV broadcasts. When Royals broadcaster Buddy Blattner retired in 1975, White teamed up with Denny Matthews for the Royals radio broadcasts.
Denny and Fred were a fixture of Royals radio broadcasts during the team’s glory days, announcing the 1980 and 1985 World Series and many playoff games. It was White who announced George Brett’s three-run homer off Goose Gossage in the 1980 ALCS and Brett’s 3,000 hit in Anaheim. He also called Bo Jackson’s first big league home run. Denny and Fred worked well together, with their similar announcing styles and their sense of humor. The term “Denny and Fred” or “Fred and Denny” became a lexicon of Royals baseball in the Midwest.
By 1998, the Royals were in decline and the Royals and Entercom, the company responsible for Royals broadcasts, fired Fred White after 25 years with the team. A young broadcaster from Minnesota named Ryan Lefebvre took White’s place. Royals fans were outraged by the move.
After 25 faithful years of service with the Royals, you could understand if White became angry or bitter about being fired. But Fred White wasn’t that type of guy. Instead, he supported Lefebvre and the two became good friends. White took a job with the Royals as the director of broadcast services for the Royals Radio Network, taking a struggling radio affiliate network and making it into the largest baseball radio network in the American League. White also directed activities for former players in the Royals Alumni program.
In 2001, White rejoined the Royals as a part-time announcer. Listening to Denny and Fred again was like listening to the Royals in the old days, even if the current Royals teams weren’t that good.
White didn’t have a catchphrase or even a distinctive voice like Vin Scully. He just had that smooth, Midwestern voice that called a baseball game like it should be called. When I was younger and even recently, listening to Fred White call a game with Denny Matthews or Ryan Lefebvre was a treat, no matter how good or bad the Royals played. Fred will be missed, but he will not be forgotten.