James Laurie "Deacon" White (December 7, 1847 – July 7, 1939) was an American baseball player who was one of the principal stars during the first two decades of the sport's professional era. The outstanding catcher of the 1870s during baseball's barehanded period, he caught more games than any other player during the decade, and was a major figure on five consecutive championship teams from 1873 to 1877 – three in the National Association (NA), in which he played throughout its five-year existence from 1871 to 1875, and two in the National League (NL), which was formed as the first fully recognized major league in 1876, partially as a result of White and three other stars moving from the powerhouse Boston Red Stockings to the Chicago White Stockings. Although he was already 28 when the NL was established, White played 15 seasons in the major leagues, completing a 23-year career at the top levels of the sport.
In 1871, White was the first batter to come to the plate in the National Association, the first professional baseball league. After compiling a .347 batting average over five NA seasons, he led the NL in runs batted in (RBI) in its first two seasons of play, and also led the league in batting (.387), slugging average, hits, triples and total bases in a brief shift to first base in 1877. For three years afterward, he joined his younger brother Will, a successful pitcher, with the Cincinnati Reds. In his mid-30s he became an effective third baseman when the toil of catching had become too great, and was a major force on the championship Detroit Wolverines team of 1887, batting .303 at age 39. Over the 20-year period of his career, White batted .312 and had more RBI (988) than any player except Cap Anson. Upon his retirement, he was among baseball's all-time leaders in career games, at bats, hits and total bases. He ranked fourth in career total chances at third base, fifth in assists, and sixth in putouts and double plays. White was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2013.
By Dean Hanley
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