Frank White: the American League’s Bill Mazeroski

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When digging through the statistics for the top second basemen in Kansas City Royals history, Frank White had easily separated himself from any other player at that position. Not only was White a solid offensive player, providing a bit of power and speed at a time when offensive production was not a requirement at the position, he was also one of the best defensive players ever at second. His eight Gold Glove awards rank third all time, tied with Bill Mazeroski, trailing only Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg.

In fact, when looking through White’s overall statistics, they greatly resembled the career production for Mazeroski. White produced a .255/.293/.383 batting line with 160 home runs and 178 stolen bases in his career, while Mazeroski hit at a .260/.299/.367 rate with 138 home runs and only 27 steals.

Bill Mazeroski still ranks as the all time leader in defensive runs saved at +148 and in double plays turned, while ranking in the top ten all time in most defensive categories. While Frank White does not lead in any of the all time categories, he is second in defensive runs saved at second with +126, and also rates among the all time best in virtually every defensive category at second. Not bad considering White was a utility player for the first few years of his career.

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Perhaps it is not surprising that, based upon Baseball Reference’s similarity score rating, White and Mazeroski are considered to be the most similar to one another. Both were superb defensive players, easily the best of their generation, while providing a bit of offense at a time when the ability to field the ball in the middle of the infield was a lot more important than being able to hit with anything resembling competence. Yet, Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame, voted in by the Veteran’s Committee after spending fifteen years on the BBWAA ballot. White, meanwhile, received only 3.8% of the vote in 1996, falling off the ballot after only one year.

What was the big difference between Bill Mazeroski and Frank White? It may be that the game winning home run that Mazeroski hit in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, leading the Pirates past the dreaded New York Yankees, while White does not have any such postseason heroics on his resume. Considering the Hall of Fame candidacies of Jack Morris and Curt Schilling, that postseason performance may have been what let Mazeroski in the Hall while White is stuck on the outside.

Plenty of players other than Mazeroski have been inducted for their defensive ability. Ozzie Smith was a mediocre hitter at best, but is in the Hall because of his glove. Ray Schalk “hit” at a .253/.340/.316 clip, but was inducted into the Hall because he is considered the best defensive catcher of all time. If they could get in, why not Frank White?

Frank White may not have the typical Hall of Fame case that most other candidates possess, but if players like Mazeroski, Smith and Schalk could be inducted, why can’t he? Perhaps it is just because he lacks that iconic moment that lives forever in baseball history.

Next: Buck O'Neil Deserves to be in the Hall of Fame

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