Frank White played his last game for the KC Royals 30 years ago, but the club is still searching for his replacement.
There’s a reason they called Frank White “Smooth.” The nickname fit like a glove, and it’s his glove that made the fit so perfect. White could hit, but defense was the first name of his game and why he’s the KC Royals’ best second baseman ever.
White, a five-time All-Star who played every one of his 18 big league seasons with Kansas City, played his last game 30 years ago, but the club’s search to replace him continues. The many who’ve tried to fill his shoes haven’t. The jury is still out on Nicky Lopez, whose glove work may someday warrant calling him “Smooth II,” but he probably won’t stick unless he learns to hit big league pitching.
White wasn’t perfect; no one is. While his defense (eight Gold Gloves) warrants Hall of Fame consideration, it’s his offensive numbers that probably keep him out of Cooperstown. He could hit in the clutch, and was the team’s choice to hit cleanup in the 1985 World Series (primarily because the American League team lost the DH in the National League’s park), but he exceeded .270 only four times in 18 seasons. (Whether that theory squares with the fact White’s offensive and defensive stats are so comparable to Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski‘s is a debate for another time).
What isn’t debatable is just how good White was, which helps explain why he’s been so hard to replace. The search has been long. When and with whom it might end is the question.