The news when it came Wednesday afternoon was surprising only in its suddenness. Those close to former Royals broadcaster Fred White knew he was terribly sick.

The Royals sent out word in the early afternoon that White, 76, had died of complications from melanoma. His death came one day after he officially retired from the club following a 40-year association.

“It’s kind of stunning,” longtime broadcast partner Denny Matthews said. “I talked to him two weeks ago. I was in his office, and nothing looked out of the ordinary or sounded out of the ordinary.

“He didn’t say anything out of the ordinary. Dang. … Somebody has a heart attack or something, well, you can kind of comprehend that. It’s kind of hard to get your hands around this.”

Word leaked out in recent days among close friends that White’s cancer had accelerated at an alarming rate. Many knew the end was near earlier this week when they spoke to The Star regarding White’s retirement.

“We didn’t just lose a teammate,” said Mike Swanson, the club’s vice president for communications and broadcasting. “We lost a friend. And he was probably a better friend than he was a teammate, and he was a fantastic teammate.”

There are no details at this time regarding funeral arrangements. A club statement said White died while in hospice care. The family made a request, through the Royals, for privacy in dealing with their grief.

White joined the Royals’ broadcast team in 1973 and, following Buddy Blattner’s retirement in 1975, teamed with Matthews as the club’s primary voices to 1998.

That Matthews-White pairing spanned the club’s glory years and, for many, provided a soundtrack to it all. White served more recently as the club’s director of broadcast services and Royals alumni.

“Two guys from central Illinois,” Matthews said. “His sense of humor was terrific. Off the charts. It takes the better part of a year of working together before you begin to understand what a guy’s style is and what he likes to do.

“I don’t think it took us very long. We played off each other pretty well and had a good time together. I’ve always told people, ‘The season is long, and the booth is small. So you’d better get along.’”