National League owners, who will respond today to the recommendation of their search committee, are expected to approve the selection of Bill White as the next league president, a high-level baseball executive said Thursday night.
White, a New York Yankees broadcaster and former All-Star first baseman, will succeed A. Bartlett Giamatti and will become the first black to head a major professional sports league.
Reached by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch late Thursday night, White said: "You go through life, and things happen. I didn't expect this by any means. But opportunities only come up so often. It's a challenge, and I'm determined not to fail."
Dodger owner Peter O'Malley, chairman of the five-member search committee, said he would not confirm or deny that White is the committee's choice.
O'Malley, reached at a Manhattan hotel Thursday night, said: "The National League will confer by telephone today, and it's fair to say we'll be giving a report."
His committee reportedly approved White during a meeting in New York Thursday. It is presumed that White will take office April 1, when Giamatti replaces Peter Ueberroth as commissioner of baseball.
Throughout the search for a new president, O'Malley has said that the committee would stress an affirmative action process aimed at identifying the top minority candidates.
Simon Gourdine, former deputy commissioner of the National Basketball Assn., is believed to have been the leading candidate until recently, when National League owners began expressing the sentiment that the new president should have a baseball background.
Among other candidates known to have received consideration were another black, Gilroye A. Griffin, vice president of Bristol-Myers Co.; Phyllis Collins, vice president of the National League; Sam Fernandez, the Dodgers' legal counsel, and Lou Hoynes, the league's longtime attorney.
White, 55, was a six-time All-Star during a 13-year major league career with the New York and San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies.
He won seven Gold Gloves for his fielding skills, drove in 100 or more runs for the Cardinals in 1962, 1963 and 1964 and for the Phillies in 1966, and had 20 or more home runs each year from 1961 through 1966. He had a career batting average of .286, and hit 202 home runs.
For the last 18 years, he has been a Yankee broadcaster.
"I got to thinking that after 18 years, there's only so many ways you can say, 'There's a ground ball to short, and the throw to first,' " White said. "Maybe I am ready for something different."