Former Kiwi pitching great Michael White in Christchurch for Men's World Championship
By TONY SMITH
The Press, Christchurch
New Zealand pitching great Michael White admits it still rankles that the All Blacks beat the Black Sox for the team of the year award in 1996 after the softballers achieved a rare perfect game to win the world series final. White, 42, says the snub was probably "one of a number" of factors behind his decision to play for the United States, where he has lived for almost 20 years.
The former Wellingtonian will play in his sixth world series in Christchurch this week. He has won two gold medals (1984 and 1996) and two silver (1988 and 1992) with New Zealand. But he donned the US uniform in 2000 and picked up a bronze to complete his world series set, losing the semifinal to the Black Sox as the New Zealanders chalked up a second successive title.
White arrived back in Christchurch yesterday with the 2004 US squad and was instantly out on a practice diamond at Smokefree Ball Park.
White ranks alongside Kevin Herlihy and Bill Massey as one of New Zealand's greatest all-time pitchers. His greatest claim to fame is his perfect game in the 1996 world championship final. Combining masterfully with catcher Mark Sorenson, he did not concede a single hit nor let a runner on base – a feat akin to a cricket bowler taking all 10 wickets in an innings.
White admitted it was "definitely one of the highlights" of his long career, but he regarded it as a team effort not an individual feat. "As a pitcher the perfect game is an ultimate, and to win a world championship is another ultimate, and to put them together is something special again. But it wasn't just one person's effort. We scored three runs, we played incredible defence, there was a great calling game by the catcher.
"It was just the culmination of a whole tournament where we were perfect the whole week. We were 14 (wins) and 0 (losses). Sure, I got lucky enough to be picked on the mound, but Chubb Tangaroa and Marty Grant could have done just as good a job." White said the Black Sox were motivated by "sleeping with rocks under our pillows" for four years after the "heartbreaking" loss in the 1992 world series final to Canada.
He regarded it also as a special honour to have been part of the 1984 winning team "which helped turn New Zealand softball around". But he believed the 1996 victory was the springboard that helped the New Zealand get to the top of world softball after winning again in 2000.