Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #485, Roy White (Article 90)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
What do Elston Howard, Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph, and Jorge Posada have in common?
They are all non-Yankee Hall-of-Famers who are enshrined in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.
There are good and legitimate reasons to include all of them there.
But others are missing and the fact they they aren’t there is problematic and sad.
One of those players, one of the most deserving players who should be included in Monument Park, is Roy White.
Of all the players listed above, only Bernie Williams (2,076) played in more games as a Yankee than Roy White (1,881).
Quick Quiz – Name the top 15 Yankees all-time in WAR.
Of all the players listed above, only Willie Randolph (54.0) and Bernie Williams (49.6) have a higher lifetime WAR as a Yankee position players than Roy White (46.8). Roy White’s WAR is 11th best in the history of the Yankees.
Why is he not in Monument Park?
(The top 15 Yankees in Position Player WAR are: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey. Willie Randolph and Alex Rodriguez (tied), Bernie Williams, Roy White, Tony Lazzeri, Thurman Munson, Earle Combs, and Robinson Cano and Graig Nettles (tied).)
Roy White played for the Yankees from 1965 to 1979. He is the only person to play for the Yankees alongside Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, and Reggie Jackson. He was the only player who played through the lean years of the late 1960s and early 1970s and who also was part of the glory of the late 1970s.
And when Roy White played, he played. In five separate seasons, Roy White appeared in 155 or more games. Twice Roy White played in all 162 games in a season. He was a true gamer.
Roy White also knew how to do the things that help teams win games. He got on base. In an era when walks were not recognized for their value, Roy White knew the value of a walk. On five separate occasions, he walked 80 or more times in a season. In nine seasons, Roy White stole 15 or more bases. In six seasons, Roy White scored 80 or more runs.
And he hit as well. (And he hit very well.) From 1968 to 1977, Roy White had 1,533 hits. Only one player in the American League (Rod Carew) had more (1,747). (Hat tip to BallNine for that great statistic.)
But here’s the one statistic, of them all, that will surprise many I am sure… but first some context.
In his entire career, Aaron Judge has 16 sacrifice flies.
Or, how’s this? In his entire career, Joey Gallo has two (yes, just two) sacrifice flies.
In 1971 alone, Roy White had 17.
In his career, Roy White 69 sacrifice flies. That’s no small number. The only Yankee to have more was Don Mattingly (96). Paul O’Neill is tied with Roy White for second on the all-time Yankees list with 69. Of the current Yankees, the closest player to White (and O’Neill) is Aaron Hicks with 19.
But Roy White wasn’t just a solid hitter. In five separate seasons, Roy White was among the Top-5 players in outfield Fielding Percentage. In nine seasons, Roy White was in the Top-5 in Fielding percentage among left fielders. He led the league in this category five times – every single season from 1968 through 1972. In 1971, Roy White’s fielding percentage was a cool 1.000.
Or, how about this – Roy White went from September 19, 1970 to June 15, 1972 without making an error. Imagine that!
It’s the little things that win ball games. It’s the players that can get on base, can steal a base, can score a run, and can drive home the runner from third with less than two outs that win games. Winning players also play solid defense. Roy White did all of those things, time and again.
That was Roy White, a solid player, an underrated player, a winning player… and a great Yankee.
There were many reasons I became a Yankees fan. I’ll never be able to know all of the factors that brought me to that point, that brought me to fall in love with a sport and a team…
Among them were Chris Chambliss’ homer in 1976 (though I didn’t pay any attention to that at the time, I just remember kids talking about it), Reggie’s three World Series homers (I do remember them)… and the cool neighbors who lived across the street, twin boys, both about five to six years older than me, and who were the epitome of cool. The coolest person in the country at that time was probably the fictional character on Happy Days – The Fonz. In my world, those two brothers were real life Fonzies.
And they were Yankees fans.
And they worshiped Roy White.
From the very beginning of my baseball fandom, I knew Roy White was special. If he was the favorite player of the coolest people I knew, he had to be someone special.
And he was!
My sister didn’t really care about baseball, but she too thought the twins were super cool. She copied them immediately and became Roy White’s biggest fan in our home.
I couldn’t copy my sister, and over time, my favorite player became Graig Nettles (who also deserves to be in Monument Park).
But still, Roy White was special, a great Yankee, a player who played with class and dignity, and a player (and person) it was always easy to root for.
I remember when Roy White retired from the Yankees after the 1979 season and went to play in Japan. He was the first player I ever knew of who went to play baseball in Japan.
I didn’t quite understand it all at the time. I didn’t know why someone just wouldn’t be a Yankee forever. But Roy White left and went to star on another continent.
In three seasons in Japan, Roy White batted .283/54/172.
Roy White played for the Yomiuri Giants, the Yankees of Japan. Years later, Hideki Matsui went from the Giants to the Yankees. Two great players, both left fielders, both Yankees legends.
In 1981, the Yomiuri Giants won the pennant and the Japan Series. It was the Giants’ 16th “World Championship.”
Roy White played for, and won, with the greatest teams in America and Japan.
In Roy White’s first season in Japan, he played alongside Sadaharu Oh. In his final season, Oh hit 30 home runs. Roy White hit 29 that year.
How many players were teammates of Mickey Mantle and Sadaharu Oh? I believe just one, Roy White.
Of the non-Hall of Famers who reside in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park only three, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, and Jorge Posada were exclusively Yankees.
The following is a complete list of players who played 15 or more seasons and spent their entire career in pinstripes:
Derek Jeter – 20 years
Mariano Rivera – 19 years
Mickey Mantle – 18 years
Frank Crosetti, Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Jorge Posada – 17 years
Whitey Ford, Bernie Williams – 16 years
Roy White – 15 years
Yeah, Roy White deserves to accompany the legends in Monument Park.
It’s not even a question.
I hope to see this happen in 2022. It’s time for the Yankees to right this wrong and give Roy White his deserving spot with the other Yankees greats.