Byron “Barney” White had a larger than life personality and a love of baseball that he enjoyed sharing with anyone in the dugout, the playing field or the parking lot after a game.
White, 51, a longtime area American Legion baseball manager and coach, passed away Monday following a single-car accident near his “second home,” Crysler Stadium.
“I heard Barney was in a car accident right near Crysler Stadium late Monday night,” said his longtime friend and fellow coach, Mike Rooney, manager of the Blue Springs Rod's Sports A's. “They were saying he might have had a heart attack – who knows, it's just unbelievable to think that Barney's gone.”
White was a longtime assistant with the A’s and Post 21 and recently managed the Hi Boy Drive-In/Post 340 team before stepping down after this summer’s season.
“Crysler was like his second home. He coached with us 10 years, then took some time off to be with his son," Rooney said. "He worked with Post 21, and I don't think people ever took Barney as seriously as they should have because he was such a big guy.
“But he knew baseball as well as anyone I've ever been around. He loved the game and he loved life. There are so many Barney stories that you wouldn't have room to print them all.”
Phil Caldarella, the A's longtime trainer, agreed with Rooney.
“The stories, let's see if I can tell you a few that you can print in the paper,” joked Caldarella about his longtime friend. “We both joined the A's staff around 1992 – that's such a long time ago – and Barney was always everyone's favorite guy to be around. If you were around Barney, you were laughing or talking baseball.”
Or doing both.
“We had a team back then that had some jokesters like Todd Campbell and Jamie Splittorff,” Caldarella added. “When we'd go on the road, they'd always put shaving cream in Barney's shoes or put clear wrap over the toilet and take the light bulb from his bathroom, so he wouldn't know it was there. Those were some good times.”
Caldarella said the ultimate compliment about White came from former Kansas City Royals player, coach and manager John Wathan, who coached the A's when his son Derek was playing for the team.
“Duke (Wathan) said Barney was as smart a baseball man as he'd ever met,” Caldarella said.
Ron Morman, the father of former William Chrisman standout and Kansas City Royals outfielder Russ Morman, also had kind words for White.
“Barney was a teammate of Russ on the Legion team,” Ron Morman said, referring to Independence Post 21. “I remember lots of laughs with him around. He coached Shawn, coached against (Russ's son) Sam but always had positive things to say when we met. He and another teammate, Mike Kline, allowed many young men to be in Legion ball that might not have had a chance otherwise.”
White's visitation will be from 6 to 8 tonight at Charter Funerals, 5000 Blue Ridge Cutoff. Condolences may be made to www.charterfunerals.com.