Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.
Previously on this list, I covered Frank White’s 2000th career hit. As I mentioned then, White really improved offensively throughout his career, going from the classic “all glove, no hit” type to, if not a great hitter, at least someone who the other team had to be concerned about. I wouldn’t say hitting for the cycle is proof someone is a good hitter, but you do need a certain blend of speed and power to pull it off.
White’s cycle on August 3, 1982, was actually the second one of his career, with the first coming in 1979 in California. The Royals needed every bit of help White could provide in this one, as they beat Detroit 6-5, with their second baseman driving in the winning run in the ninth. That allowed the Royals to move into first place in the AL West, so it was a pretty sizable game from White.
The heroics started right away. Facing Detroit’s Pat Underwood, Willie Wilson led off the first with a single. White then hit his fifth home run of the season, this one off the left field foul pole, to give Kansas City a quick 2-0 lead.
Detroit tied it up with two runs in the third off Royals starter Derek Botelho. White doubled with two outs in the third but was stranded at second. The Tigers then took the lead when Chet Lemon hit a solo home run with two outs in the fourth. But the Royals were able to tie it up in the fifth. With two outs, Wilson singled. White hit a ground ball that went off first baseman Rick Leach’s glove, and the speedy Wilson was able to score on the play, making it a 3-3 game.
Underwood’s defense let him down again in the seventh. He retired the first two hitters, but center fielder Glenn Wilson dropped Wilson’s fly ball, and it skipped away far enough for Wilson to reach third. White singled to center to tie the game at 5-5.
Now White just needed a triple for the cycle, but his teammates needed to get on base a couple of times to get his spot back up. Kansas City got a Willie Aikens single in the eighth but did not score. Armstrong followed a perfect eighth with a perfect ninth, and the Royals had a chance for a walkoff win. Underwood was still in the game and got the first out in the ninth, but Onix Concepcion singled to put the winning run on first. After Wilson flied out, White stepped to the plate. He belted a drive to right-center that eluded Lemon and Wilson and bounced to the wall. White rounded second as Concepcion crossed the plate, and the official scorer credited him with the triple. So perhaps White got the cycle on a technicality, but it still counts.
“When I hit the ball, I really thought it was going to be caught. It was hit real high and I thought they were going to catch it.”–White, quoted by the Associated Press, August 4, 1982
The four-hit game gave White a .325 average for the season, an impressive mark for anyone, let alone someone whose previous career high in that category was .275.
“I’ve been on the bottom end too many times and I know how fast things can change. So I really don’t like to dwell on what’s happening. I just like to enjoy it and see if I can keep it going.”–White, quoted by Mike McKenzie, The Sporting News, August 16, 1982
“I think he is a little different hitter this year. He has changed his style a little and is hitting the ball hard all over the park.” Royals manager Dick Howser, quoted by the Associated Press, August 4, 1982
The feat was more impressive given that White was playing on a sore toe that required surgery after the season. He was wearing special padding on his right foot but had still missed two games in Cleveland just the week before from the pain. Oddly, if White had only been credited with a double on the game-winning hit, he would have ended the season tied for the AL lead in doubles with McRae and Milwaukee’s Robin Yount. But one suspects that White prefers it this way.