About an hour before he was introduced with George Brett, Bret Saberhagan and the wife of the late Dan Quisenberry, Janie Quisenberry-Stone, Frank White stood in the hallway off the Royals dugout and greeted a half-dozen players and Royals officials.
“You’re the man,” White told Alcides Escobar.
“Congratulations, Frank,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said during a handshake.
An old friend had returned to Kauffman Stadium on official business for the first time in four years. White was recognized as one of the Royals’ Franchise Four, a fan-voting honor conducted by Major League Baseball.
And White was honored.
“To be singled out like this, it’s humbling,” White said. “It’s a tribute to the fans, and I’m here to honor them.”
White received the loudest ovation when the group was introduced prior to the Royals’ game Tuesday against the Tigers, perhaps because he has most difficult history.
White was an eight-time Gold Glove second baseman, the MVP of the 1980 American League Championship Series and resides in the top five of nearly every one of the team’s major offensive categories. He served as a coach, in the front office and a broadcaster before he was let go from the organization.
His uniform No. 20 is one of three in gold hanging from the Royals Hall of Fame, and his statue greets visitors beyond the fountains.
But three years ago, he told USA Today, “I’ll never set foot in that place again,” referring to Kauffman Stadium, and “I’m done with the Royals.”
Tuesday, White was back and reflected on his final years with the organization.
“I took a deep breath and just said, ‘It’s time to move on,’” White said. “I didn’t look at it as me vs. them. I felt like I gave everything I had to give.
“It was just a good time for me to move on a do something different. When one door closes, it allows you to open another one.”
Among the new opportunities was politics. White became a landslide winner for a seat in the Jackson County Legislature. He has attended games at Kauffman Stadium a politician and as a fan, attending four of the Royals’ postseason games last year.
But Tuesday marked his first game back on the Kauffman Stadium turf in four years.
“People say you need to make up, things like that,” White said. “I’m from the old school, if you’re fired. … I’d love to sit down and talk to them. But how far that goes, I don’t know. I’ve done everything here I can do except manage the team and be the (general manager).”
Perhaps Tuesday was a step in that direction. He was touched by the tribute.
“You could put two people in my place here, guys I really respect and taught me how to play the game,” White said. “Hal McRae and Amos Otis. Hal taught me how to play aggressively. Amos was probably the best field general I ever played with.
“I got to where I am today because of the guys who helped me the first few years in the game. And I accept this honor because of the fans.”