Storytime With Sweeny: Jinxing Rondell White

Sweeny Murti
May 31, 2020 - 4:39 pm
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I’m often asked about my favorite players to cover in 20 years on the Yankees beat. And one answer always seems to surprise people.

Rondell White was one of the nicest players I’ve ever covered.  He is unfortunately remembered as one of the most injury-prone.

White played just one year with the Yankees. That was 2002, when he batted .240 with 14 home runs and a .666 OPS — worst of his career to that point.  He actually played 126 games, the fifth-highest total of his 15-year career. But it seems we spent an awful lot of time that year talking about his injuries, and Rondell knew it too. 

“I don’t want to be Ron-DL,” White said, referring to his unwanted nickname which saw him spend too much time on what was then still called the disabled list.

Rondell—whose other nickname was Rock—was a genuinely fun guy to be around.  He took the game seriously, but not himself.

“What am I now, 0-for-what?” he quizzed a reporter while in the midst of a slump.  “And I know you know!”

White was part of the 1994 Montreal Expos who lost their chance at postseason glory due to a players’ strike.  And he was on that ’02 Yankees team that won 103 games before getting bounced in the playoffs by the eventual World Series champion Anaheim Angels. White played five more seasons after the Yankees traded him to San Diego in spring 2003—he made the National League All-Star team that summer—and he was one of the players I would always catch up with in the other team’s clubhouse.

In 2004 White played with the Tigers, and when the Yankees went to Detroit for a series Mark Feinsand (with MLB.com) and I had lunch with him at Hockeytown, the giant sports bar across the street from Comerica Park.  As we waited for a table another patron recognized White and shook his hand, saying he was a huge Yankees fan.

“So what are you doing these days?” the fan asked White.

Apparently this fella hadn’t kept up. White was literally playing across the street from where we were standing.

In spring 2007 Rondell was with the Twins, and both he and Torii Hunter were taking batting practice before an exhibition game against the Yankees in Tampa. We chatted for a few minutes—Feinsand and me again— before White moved toward the cage. 

We said goodbye and I said something like, “Hey we’ll do lunch again when the Yankees come to town. Try not to get hurt, okay?”

Rondell laughed, as did Feinsand and I. The Yankees were scheduled to visit Minnesota the second week in April.

But then a minute later he walked back over to us with a serious look on his face.

“Torii said you jinxed me, man.”

“I jinxed YOU?!” I exclaimed. “Is that even possible??” It was like telling someone they just jinxed a black cat.

Two weeks later, as the Yankees came to town, Ron-DL went down with a strained calf.

“White got hurt in Chicago skipping out of the dugout during warmups,” is how the story read on the Associated Press.

He didn’t make it back until July, then played in just 38 games—the final 38 games of his career.

Yes, I guess I could jinx Rondell after all. 

I’m sorry about that, Rock. But know that you were always one of my favorite players to cover