This Day in Baseball History: March 31st, 1993

A fine man.

On March 31, 1993:

Bill White steps down from his position as National League President.

Bill White was a productive first baseman originally for the New York Giants but mostly for the Cardinals. Every year, he had an OPS+ over 100, and from 1962 to 1966, they ranged from 122 to 134 (the 122 seasons bookended his run). He was an All-Star five times, and he won seven straight Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966. While still playing for the Cardinals, White had his own sports program on the radio and had one when he went to Philadelphia. After he retired, he would become a Yankees broadcaster alongside Phil Rizzuto.

But White is known more for something else he did. In 1989, he became the first African-American league president in league history. Breaking through nine years after Jackie Robinson, White had to deal with all the racial epithets available. Although he said that his race wasn’t an important issue, it was for many in the African-American community that finally saw a black man in an upper-level commission. Still, at the end of his tenure when asked who should succeed him, he responded, “Someone like me”, purposely leaving the comment vague.

Actually, he, and most in the baseball world, were shocked to see him get the position. He was an excellent baseball man, but he didn’t seem to be on the radar. He didn’t even ask to be considered, but there he was being asked to be the National League President. At first, he was bewildered, and after realizing the committee was serious, he wasn’t sure. Ultimately, he took the position. While there, he did his job. A straight-shooter focused on his job, White never used his position to explicitly force more minorities in the game. White didn’t feel that was his job, but he definitely wanted more minorities in upper-level positions and was mindful of how his performance could affect future hirings. In fact, he instituted a program forcing National League teams to notify the president of open positions and the list of interviewees for the position, implicitly pressuring at least the consideration of minorities.

Outside of the race issue, one of his most important contributions was setting up the National League to expand. Although not done until 1994 when he had left, White was instrumental in getting the job done.

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