Gaylon H. White went from sportswriting to speechwriting to scriptwriting before writing The Bilko Athletic Club, a book about beer keg-shaped Steve Bilko and the 1956 Los Angeles Angels of the old Pacific Coast League.
The Los Angeles-born White was nine years old in 1955 when Bilko arrived in L.A. carrying the baggage of six failed big league trials. At the time, L.A. was a minor-league city with major-league dreams.
Over the next three years, Bilko belted 148 home runs for the Angels to become known as “Stout Steve, the Slugging Seraph” and inspire “The Bilko Athletic Club” nickname for the mighty ‘56 Angels, widely considered baseball’s last great minor league team. “Bilko was the Sultan of Swat in the minors and I always wondered why he wasn’t a superstar in the majors,” White said.
He decided to find out for himself, spending an entire day with Bilko shortly before he died in 1978 at age 49. White went on to interview more than a hundred players, including most of Bilko’s teammates on the ’56 Angels. “Even a half-century later, Bilko is an iconic figure in baseball,” White said.
As an example of the impact he had on others, White cites a comment in a 2012 interview by Jim Brosnan, who was Bilko’s roommate on the road when they played for the 1955 Angels. “I miss him now,” Brosnan said. “He was one of the special ones that did things that few others would even try to do.”
White graduated in 1967 from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in journalism-broadcasting. He was a sportswriter for the Denver Post, Arizona Republic and Oklahoma Journal before entering the corporate world and writing speeches for top corporate executives. He eventually established an award-winning website for Eastman Chemical Company – www.EastmanInnovationLab.com – that uses storytelling to bridge the communications gap between the materials and design worlds. He was responsible for a highly-acclaimed series of videos filmed in Kenya in 2011 on a hydration solution for disaster relief.
White received a personal recognition award from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) in 2010 for his support of design education and being a “great builder of bridges” between the manufacturing and design communities. In 2011, White was awarded an honorary lifetime membership in the IDSA.
“At heart, Gaylon White is a storyteller,” Bob Grace of Plastics News wrote on White’s retirement from Eastman in 2012. “Others would do well to learn from his story.”
White writes a design column for Plastics News. He has authored some 100 articles for international and U.S. publications, many on baseball. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, the Pacific Coast League Historical Society and a Friends of Marino Pieretti honoree. He and his wife, Mary, split their time between homes in Kingsport, Tennessee, and Cartersville, Georgia.