When Kansas City recently hosted the 83rd All-Star Game, it was the perfect forum for former Major Leaguers spanning the generations to flock into town and revisit their own All-Star memories.
But few All-Star stories could top the one told by a guy who was already here. Royals Hall of Famer and lifelong Kansas Citian Frank White sent shock waves through the Astrodome in 1986 when he socked a pinch-hit homer that proved to be the winning run in a 3-2 American League victory. It wasn't the homer, per se, that stood out. It was the pitcher that White victimized with his improbable blast.
In what was truly a "Great Scott" moment, White drove a ball over the wall against Astros right-hander Mike Scott, the '86 Cy Young Award winner. Scott was the rage of the National League that year, fanning 306 and pitching a no-hitter on the day that Houston clinched the National League West title. Scott had developed a nasty split-finger fastball that he had learned from pitching guru Roger Craig and seemed virtually unhittable at times during that season.
The bespectacled right-hander's split-finger delivery had such a violent dropoff and fastball arm action that hitters that year accused Scott of scuffing the baseball. Scott simply maintained that nothing illegal was going on and it was an advantage for him if hitters were psyching themselves out by convincing themselves there was wrongdoing.
For White to homer against the National League's most dominant pitcher in Scott's home park was truly a feat designed to withstand the test of time.
White remembers it all as if it happened yesterday, not 26 years ago. Cal Ripken and Jesse Barfield hit against Scott before White came up and were quickly retired.
"Cal didn't have a chance and Jesse struck out on three pitches," White recalled. "Jesse came walking by me and just said 'good luck.'"
White quickly found himself in a hole and Scott's hometown fans raised the noise level in the Astrodome. When it seemed that Scott was poised to fan White and walk off the mound to a thunderous ovation, White provided his own moment of wonder.
"The first two pitches he threw me, I had no chance," White said. "It was 0-2 right away. The fans in the Dome were up cheering their guy."
White pondered the situation. He knew that pitchers sometimes like to come inside off the plate with an 0-2 pitch, which sets up the opportunity to go away on the next pitch and make the hitter look bad.
"I was hoping he would try to get a pitch inside and miss, which would give me a chance to hit the fastball," White said. "Sure enough, he came with a fastball inside."
White turned that fastball around and a 2-1 lead for the American League grew to 3-1. The National League would eventually close within a run, but couldn't push the tying run across. White's homer made it a sweet All-Star managing experience for Dick Howser. The Royals' skipper was diagnosed shortly thereafter with a brain tumor.
"We didn't know that Dick was sick at the time," White said. "It turned out to be a special day for him."White played in five All-Star Games. He remembers his first as a time when he simply soaked in all the camaraderie that an All-Star trip has to offer.
"My first one [in 1978], I remember sitting between Whitey Herzog and Billy Martin and listening to them tell stories about Casey Stengel," White said. "The opportunity to be there for the first time really made an impact. You're in that clubhouse with the best of the best and it's very gratifying and rewarding."
White, an eight-time Gold Glove winner and one of the all-time great defensive second basemen, was often at his best offensively when the lights were shining brightest. He was the AL Championship Series MVP in 1980 after hitting .545. In the 1985 World Series he led all players with six RBIs.
But when it comes to defying the odds in one at-bat, White's All-Star golden moment sticks out.
"When you're in an All-Star Game, you're representing your family, your team, your city," White said. "You want to do something in that game to make people proud of you."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com.