Sports broadcaster Fred White, who was the former voice of Kansas State athletics and also did Big Eight and Big 12 Network basketball games during the winter months, died Wednesday of complications from melanoma. He was 76 years old.
The announcement of White’s death came just one day after he disclosed his official retirement from the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball, with whom White had been associated for 40 years. A statement from the Royals’ organization said that the longtime sports announcer passed away while under Hospice care.
Originally from Illinois, White moved to Topeka, Kan., in 1967, where he became the radio and television voice of the Kansas State Wildcats and served as sports director and a sports anchor for WIBW-TV. I knew White and had the pleasure of working with him at WIBW and followed his career for many years thereafter. When I worked with him, he was at the beginning of what became a distinguished career in sports broadcasting. I always thought of him as fun guy to be around, easy to talk to and a consumate professional. He took great pride in his work but didn’t seem to be totally consumed by it.
In 1973, White was approached by the Royals and asked if he would be interested in joining the team’s television broadcast team. “They wanted to have a third guy when they televised games,” White told the Topeka Capital -Journal in a 2012 interview. “Yeah, of course I was interested,” he said. “So I started doing games – 40, 45 games was all they televised. That’s how it all got started, part-time stuff in ’73, and it all ballooned from there.”
White teamed with original Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews and they served as the team’s primary broadcast team from 1973 to 1998, when radio rights holder Entercom decided to make a change and brought in current Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre to replace White. Removing White from the broadcast team drew considerable fan criticism.
White remained with the Royals organization as head of the Royals Radio Network. He later become Director of Broadcast Services for the Royals, the position he held until one day before his death.
In addition to calling Big Eight and Big 12 basketball games in the baseball off-season, White also did special assignment work for ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and Turner Sports.
White was inducted into the Kansas Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame in 2004 along with his Royals broadcast teammate Denny Matthews.