The Royals announced on Wednesday that former radio broadcaster Fred White died of complications from melanoma. This came just 24 hours after White announced that he’d be retiring from his post-broadcasting role with the team, which was to help build up and maintain the vast Royals Radio Network.
I grew up with two parents and three older brothers, so it’s not like I was lacking for childhood presences. But Fred White, along with Denny Mathews, were a profound staple of my childhood summers. Their broadcasts came to the Haas household every night of every summer on AM radio, sandwiched between thunderstorm warnings, irrigation guideline updates, and so many commercials about seeds.
The Royals were awful, always. It didn’t matter; we were always fans and always had the game on, as background to whatever was going on. If some of us were playing catch in the yard: the radio was on. If we were working on a home improvement project: the radio was on. I never thought about it at the time, but there are radios all over my parents’ house. Wherever any of us went in the house, the radio was there, and the radio had Fred.
When I was 16, I was working at a local radio station. By that time, White had long since left the radio booth, which was a whole ‘nother story.* The station managers were trying to figure out if they could become a part of the Royals Radio Network without disrupting the already-robust slate of sports they covered. It was a long shot from the start, but Fred White came out to our little building in our little town anyway. My bosses, knowing that I was a Royals nut, allowed me to sit in on the meeting. It was a pretty standard affair as far as business meetings go, but I soaked in every word coming from White because it was the same golden voice that had guided me through so many terrible Royals seasons.
The following Christmas, he sent me a card. I framed it, and still have it.
*The team was in a funk in the late 90s, and in a desperate fit of “we have to do something,” they fired White. White handled the situation with a truckload of grace and dignity. 10-year-old Minda did not.
Kansas City Star writer Rustin Dodd summed up perfectly what tons of other Royals fans have said on Twitter and elsewhere: “If you grew up in KC, Denny and Fred were pretty much summer.”
I was hoping to get through my entire Ladies… career without having to use the “Cancer Sucks” tag, but here we are, and it sure does. Rest in peace, Fred.