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SPOTLIGHT
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Pulling out the radio and remembering

Published on -5/22/2013, 10:41 AM

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Fred and Denny.

I knew them on a first-name basis when I was growing up, as did countless other Royals fans.

That's why I was saddened to learn Fred White passed away a week ago today. White, 76, died of complications from melanoma.

Fred White joined with Denny Matthews to form the best broadcast team the Kansas City Royals ever had. Their complementary, laid-back style was perfectly suited for their audience. No histrionics needed on a home run call in a 7-2 game in July; save that for the Yankees.

Fred -- I can't bring myself to call him by his last name, as you are taught in school -- was with the Royals one way or another over four decades. He did games on the radio until he was replaced in 1998 after 25 years on the air.

In reading about Fred's death, there was a story that the team wanted a fresh voice as the reason he was let go. Typical of the Royals; they don't know a good thing when they have it.

Same thing happened when the team didn't want former Royals Hall of Famer Frank White in the booth any more; he was too critical, supposedly. Hey, when you saw the awful Royals teams on the field that he saw, it's hard not to be critical. Still, I don't remember hearing Frank White say something on the air and thinking, "Wow, he really slammed the team."

The Royals organization, to its credit, did make a classy gesture in the team's first game after Fred White's death. The first half-inning of the Royals' game with the Angels was televised with no announcers, just a picture of the former broadcaster was on the screen.

Still, instead of class acts like Fred White or Frank White, Royals fans have had to endure "Hud" in the TV booth since the start of last season. Now, Rex Hudler seems like a nice guy, but he's not a fit for Kansas City. His animated act and corny inside baseball cliches might play well in some parts of the country, but not here.

It's a startling contrast to years gone by. I know, you have to be careful when you talk about "the good old days" because in fact those days really weren't all that good in many respects. For instance, I prefer air conditioning and cable TV, something we didn't have when I was growing up.

Still, give me Fred and Denny any day, any year. When the Royals became a franchise in 1969, I started listened to games on the only radio we had in the house, next to the phone in the kitchen. It would be late at night, and I would be listening with glove in hand, pitching along with Wally Bunker and Dick Drago, and later, Paul Splittorff.

Splittorff also became a broadcaster after his playing days. And I felt the same sadness when he, too, succumbed to complications of melanoma in 2011.

They are not alone. Right fielder Al Cowens, he of the big Afro and quick bat, also is no longer with us. Neither is catcher Darrell Porter, with the Coke bottle glasses. Or Dan Quisenberry, the popular submarining reliever with the bushy mustache and quick wit. And then there's manager Dick Howser, who led KC to its only World Series title, in 1985.

Fred White, for me and so many others, felt like a close friend we invited into our homes on summer evenings. So tonight, when KC is playing in Houston, I think I will shut off the TV, at least for a while, and sit outside and listen to the game on the radio, remembering years gone by.

I will remember Fred -- and Denny, too -- and what they meant to this Royals fan for so many years.

Randy Gonzales is a reporter at The Hays Daily News. rgonzales@dailynews.net

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