According to sources, esophageal cancer is to blame for the surprise announcement by White that his days with the team are over. White, who is not expected to make it for long, wasn’t quoted in today’s newspaper account of his departure. An account which pointed only to “recent health issues.”
“I always thought Fred was a good guy,” says former Entercom chieftain Bob Zuroweste. “He was bitter about being fired, which I can understand, because the Royals were his life. But he was always a gentleman and was well respected.”
Speaking of which…
It was on Zuroweste’s watch in 1998 that White was canned after 25 years in the broadcast booth.
“It bothers the hell out of me,” White told the Star‘s Jeff Flanagan at the time. “But I’m not going to let it beat me up. It’s a tremendous letdown.”
At the time of White’s axing he was making around $160,000 and partnering with Denny Matthews who was taking down more than $200,000.
The object of the game, sources say, was to reduce Entercom’s overhead by hiring someone for less money (Ryan Lefebvre was brought in to replace White at a salary of around $100,000) and the Royals “chose” to fire White instead of Matthews to meet that goal.
However public outcry was so great, that following a huge faux pas by then Royals general manager Herk Robinson stating publicly that the team wanted more youth in the broadcast booth, White threatened to file an EEOC complaint that could have lead to a lawsuit and was hired back and given a made up job as “affiliates manager.”
Of course, if you read today’s sanitized account in the Star you wouldn’t recognize any of those details. Here’s how reporter Bob Dutton watered down the incident:
“When White left the Royals’ broadcast booth — a move that drew heavy criticism — he remained with the club by overseeing the Royals Radio Network, which spans seven starts and remains one of the largest in the major leagues.”
Geez, all Dutton had to do was read the Star‘s headline atop Flanagan’s column to even halfway get the story straight: “Decision to fire White is puzzle“
“The Royals were the ones that basically made the decision to fire White,” says a source familiar with the situation at the time. “Herk Robinson wanted to create a different sounding broadcast. He wanted a younger sounding broadcast and Fred White threatened to file an EEOC complaint against Entercom and the Kansas City Royals and that’s why we rehired him.”
As for the “different sounding” broadcast, was the culprit there, sources say.
“Here was the problem with the Royals broadcast, it was only one guy doing three or four innings and then the other guy doing three or four innings. So it was never a two man broadcast. Very, very seldom did they do a team approach and we wanted it to be a two man show.
“There was no Major League Baseball broadcast in the country that was doing a one man show. One guy would do play-by-play and color and the other guy would do color. But it was always two guys doing the broadcast at the same time. I mean, how many one man broadcasts are there in major league sports?”
Trouble was veteran broadcaster Matthews wouldn’t do a trois.
“They fired the wrong guy, they should have fired Denny because he’s the one who wouldn’t let it be a two man show. And basically Herk and Denny went back a long way and they were buddies.”