It’s an understatement to say that Frank White‘s place in Kansas City baseball history is great. An anecdote that is repeated over and over about the Royals Hall of Famer is the story about how he was part of the construction crew at then-Royals Stadium before being called up the the majors.
He grew up in Kansas City within yards of Municipal Stadium, then helped build the stadium that would replace it and later, helped fill the stadium with fans, awards and accolades.
In his new memoir (written with Bill Althaus) One Man’s Dream: My Town, My Team, My Time, he covers the same elements that most athlete autobiographies cover: the early days of playing ball, the first break, learning the game and clubhouse conversations. What makes White’s story more involved than that is his recent split with the club. In a much-discussed breakup, White’s contract with FSKC to broadcast Royals TV games was not reviewed after 2011.
That split comes up multiple times – the wound is still fresh – and at times, White describes it as hurtful or refers to the Royals as dysfunctional. Reading the accounts of his last year as a player and the Royals handling of that, followed by the revolving door at manager that he never got much of a chance at (at one point, he says, the Royals refused him an interview, then asked him to help with Tony Pena‘s), and then the broadcast dismissal. It’s easy to be sympathetic, though Frank’s side is the only side you get from this book. It’s an unfortunate circumstance. I think the Royals should have handled it all better, but there comes a point in the book where it’s just too frequent a topic – it dominates much of the last third of it.
But up to that point, there’s a lot of interesting insight, including some detailed accounts of his tryout for the Royals Academy, including the factors that almost led to his missing out on the opportunity at all. First, he was older than most of the players trying out, and, further, was married to his first wife, Gladys and the Royals weren’t looking for married players.
Then I heard something that broke my heart; they weren’t going to take any married players … So, when I left, I thought that was it. It was back to the plating company and my baseball days were coming to an end.
Also in the way was getting to the tryout at all, but his boss gave him the time off to try out. Once he made the Academy and was tabbed as one of the potential players, there was still resistance to him in the game, as many didn’t support the experiment. Obviously, it didn’t matter, as White made it to the big leagues.
His accounts of individual seasons are what you’d expect. There’s a lot of discussion about the Royals battles with the Yankees in the late ’70s and he talks at length about the 1980 and 1985 World Series. He shares his thoughts on players he’s played with and against, philosophies on the game and how he prepared. It’s the typical athlete memoir.
When it comes to more controversial topics, White didn’t get too involved. The 1983 cocaine bust of four Royals gets parts of two pages, and there’s not much more devoted to the 1981 player’s strike. He’s here to tell a story, not to rock the boat or call anybody out (other than Dan Glass).
Most athletic memoirs are written with the aid of another writer, and this book is no exception. Long-time friend Bill Althaus was a part of the project, though there’s no indication about how the book came together. There are parts where the tale jumps chronologically within a chapter, especially as it tells about White’s younger years before the academy. There are interviews from former teammates and family friends, and I’m sure much was written verbatim as White told his story, lending a conversational tone.
There’s nothing transformative about the book. It’s not Jim Bouton‘s Ball Four or a tell-all like Jose Canseco‘s memoirs, but for a Royals fan or baseball fan in Kansas City, there’s enough to take away from it. If you haven’t heard enough of the FSKC controversy, you’ll enjoy the whole book. Otherwise, you can skip a couple of the final chapters (but be sure to stop to read about the All-Star week events and his time with the T-Bones). When a player is involved with an organization for as long as White was with the Royals, it’s not surprising to see such an end feature heavily in a project like this, but it doesn’t ruin the reading experience (but again, skim those parts if you’ve heard enough about it.)
Disclaimer: The copy reviewed was purchased for my personal collection. Neither of the authors nor the publisher requested a review – just sharing as a fan.