White was the quiet leader of the Yankees in a period when their lackluster, sometimes abysmal play was an embarrassing contrast to the franchise’s long winning history. His consistently solid performance was finally rewarded in the mid-1970s when the club regained its winning touch; in that period he provided a dignity beyond many of the team’s more obviously talented stars.
White hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game five times and also switch-hit triples in a game on September 8, 1970, which nobody has ever done more than once in a season. He had speed, too, and stole 233 bases in his career. He was in double figures in steals every season except for his first and last years, and he stole a career-high 31 bases in 1976 at the age of 32. His fielding was just as steady as his other talents, and in 1975 he fielded 1.000, the first Yankee ever to play an errorless season. League-leading performances offensively came in 1972 (99 walks), 1973 (639 at-bats), and 1976 (104 runs). In 1971 he set the AL record for sacrifice flies in a season with 17.
White came up briefly in 1965, the year of the Yankees’ collapse, and stuck in 1966, when they dropped to last place. He achieved everyday status in 1968 and hit .267 with 17 HR, 20 steals, 89 runs, and 73 walks. Military service interrupted his 1969 season, when he made the All-Star team, but he had a career year in 1970 with personal highs of 22 HR, 109 runs, 94 RBI, and a .296 batting average. He continued to provide the Yankees with consistent everyday play at the plate and in left field until an injury in 1978 slowed him. He helped the Yankees to their first pennant since 1964 in 1976, and to back-to-back World Championships in 1977-78. In the 1976 LCS he tied the ML mark for walks in a five-game series (5), and his six doubles tied the ALCS lifetime record. His best postseason came in 1978 despite just having come off the DL; he hit .313 in the LCS, with a game-winning sixth-inning HR in the clincher, and hit .333 with a HR and four RBI in the World Series. He later played in Japan, but returned to the U.S. to coach for the Yankees.