Devon White hits a pitch during the All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport
The Diamondbacks' first All-Star representative was also their best on the day. Three-hit All-Star Games are rare, particularly in the modern era. Since Roberto Clemente in 1962, it's been managed by just five National League players, two of whom had the benefit of an extra at-bat. Only Tim Raines (1987), White and Chipper Jones (2000) have gone 3-for-3 for the Senior Circuit in that time. He also has the only triple by a Diamondback and his five total bases are still the most by an Arizona player. Not bad for a guy generally perceived as a token participant who only made it in because of the rule saying every team must be represented.
Devon is one of only major-leaguers to hail from Jamaica - Chili Davis being the best known. His family moved to the US in the early seventies, a clerical error changing their name from "Whyte" [Devon has since officially changed his name back to the original spelling, but as he was known as "White" in his Diamondbacks' days, that's the spelling I've used] His early career was with the Angels, but he achieved his greatest success with the Blue Jays. He won two World Series in Toronto, along with five Gold Gloves (in addition to a pair in California), and only a blown call robbed him of starting the second triple play in World Series history, during Game 3 of the 1992 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. It was recently ranked the #2 all-time play by Jason Stark.
White had made it to a couple of All-Star Games previously, in 1989 with the Angels and 1993 with the Blue Jays, going a combined 1-for-3. But it was in the twilight of his career, as a 35-year old, that he had his best performance during the midsummer classic. In November 1997, he had been traded by the Marlins to Arizona for a minor-leaguer as part of their fire-sale, and became the Diamondbacks' starting center-fielder in their debut season. He was there for the franchise's Opening Day, on March 31, 1998, behind Andy Benes, going 1-for-4, and started 141 times for Arizona that year, beneath the overhand at Bank One Ballpark..
It wasn't the best of first halves for the team. As almost all expansion franchises do, they struggled, and came into the All-Star break 26.5 games out of first, with a 30-58 record. But the Diamondbacks were still entitled to have someone on the National League roster for the game, which took place at Coors Field in Denver [Note: the park got an ASG in its fourth season; Chase got one in its fourteenth...] It seemed certain the pick would come from the hitting side; the Diamondbacks didn't have a regular starter with an ERA below four over the first-half, and closer Gregg Olson had an unspectacular 3.86 ERA and only eleven saves.
Among our hitters, White was third among regulars by OPS. As we noted previously, he trailed both David Dellucci and Travis Lee there. However, there was no room available for Lee, with Mark McGwire winning the popular vote, and the reserve 1B spot on the roster going to the Big Cat, Andres Galarraga, who has posted a monstrous first half for the Braves, batting .304 with 28 home-runs. White was therefore given a spot, one of six outfielders on the National League rosters, even though he came 28th in the outfield voting, behind the likes of Jermaine Allensworth. That he even got three at-bats was a fortunate coincidence, largely a result of the game's location in Denver.
White came into the game in the fifth, replacing Tony Gwynn in the line-up, with Larry Walker moving to right to make room for Gwynn. The National League were down 3-4, but the game was about to explode offensively. The American League would finally prevail, but it was a typical game of Coors pinball in the late 90's, and only did so by a score of 13-8. The total of 21 runs scored remains an all-time high, the teams combining for 31 hits and 11 walks; even though the National League lost, it's the only time since 1969 that they have scored more than seven runs in a regulation contest.
White wasted no time, taking a 3-1 pitch from Bartolo Colon and depositing it into center-field for a triple, then scoring on a Barry Bonds home-run. He'd bat again the next inning, singling back up the middle off Rolando Arrojo on a 1-0 count. And he came up with two men on base in the bottom of the eighth, and did his part, lining a pitch from future Diamondback (briefly) Tom Gordon to shallow left, though the runner on second, Fernando Vina, was thrown out on a questionable attempt to score, gunned down by Paul O'Neill, playing out of position in left-field, who fired a strike to catcher Sandy Alomar.
Had the NL won, White could well have been the MVP, but the honor went to Roberto Alomar, who had three hits for the victorious AL. Devon played out the rest of the year with the Diamondbacks, and was one of the team's most valuable position players for the year overall: his bWAR of 3.1 was second to Jay Ball on that debut roster. But the team gave him his free agency at the end of the season, opting to go after, and eventually sign, Steve Finley to play center instead. White signed with the Dodgers, and had to watch as the D-backs roared to 100 victories and their first ever post-season.
White finished his career with a solid season for the Brewers, posting an OPS over .800 in 126 games for Milwaukee, calling it quits at the age of 38. He is now a base-running co-ordinator for the White Sox, putting those 346 stolen-bases - 22 of them during the 1998 season with the Diamondbacks - to good use. But he still has ties to Arizona, with his daughter, Davellyn Whyte [note the spelling!], a junior at the University of Arizona, where she is a start on the women's basketball team. And for at least another few hours, and quite probably longer than that, he owns the best performance at an All-Star Game by any member of the Diamondbacks.