No. 234 Frank Howard (Number 23 Left Field)

I remember listening to the 1969 all star game on the radio. I was 10 and my Dad was in the Air Force stationed in the Philippines. We would get the game of the week taped delayed about 6 weeks later. However, we could listen to the games fairly live on Armed Forces Radio.  Of course, we were a lot of hours ahead of the United States, so we listened the next day.

I remembered the year before the National League 1-0 on a first inning run by Willie Mays. The American League could gather only 3 hits. The next year the American League fell behind 3-0 after an inning In a half. I was 10 years old and was already tired of hearing how good the National League was. In the bottom of the 2nd Frank Howard hit a long homerun to center off Steve Carlton. It was only one run but I shouted “Take that National League”. The American League lost 9-3, but I always liked Frank Howard after that.

When reporters look back they write how much of a disappointment Howard was with the Dodgers. However, looking back his statistics were actually pretty good considering the ball park and the fact the 1960s was a pitching era.

After winning rookie of the year in 1961, he had injuries and ended up platooning in right field instead of starting out of first base. Howard wasn’t fast out in the field but had a great arm.  After he retired they talked about his pitching arm. I saw him pitch batting practice once in spring training. In 1962 he came back and had a great year with the bat. He hit .296 and 31 homeruns with an OPS plus of 146. He finished 9th in the MVP award.

In 1963, Howard began to wear glasses and could see the ball better. He had a great April, but slumped in May and June and became a platoon player. However at the end of the season his OPS plus improved to 150. No one knew it as the changes in the rules made it harder to hit, so Howard’s stats didn’t look as good. Howard had a good World Series where he was one of the few players hitting the ball and batted .300 with a homer and a double, in that low scoring World  Series. The Dodgers swept the Yankees.

In 1964, Howard had for him would be a disappointing season with the bat even though he was a little above average hitter. He had to be more to help the team. After the season Howard was traded to the expansion Senators.

From 1965 to 1967 had solid seasons for the Washington Senators. In 1968, a big pitching year Howard went up at least another level. He hit over 40 home runs for the first time in his career, beating his previous record of 36 with 44. He had an OPS plus of 171 and would be 170 or over in 1969 and 1970 also. I thought maybe he walked more in 1968. However, his walk rate was basically the same as the previous four years.

In 1969 he had a lot higher walk rate, getting 100 walks for the first time. There were probably three factors to this. I’m sure teams pitched him more carefully. The strike zone was smaller due to a rule change. Also, Ted Williams became the manager of the Senators. He probably talked to Howard about taking more pitches and forcing the batter to come to him. Howard hit .296 with an on base percentage of .401. He hit his record high of 48 homeruns that season.

In 1970 he had another great year with the bat. Howard’s three-year peak was from age 31 to 33. After that he slowly faded, until his hitting couldn’t carry his poor fielding. If he kept his peak up longer he would be a hall of famer.


Author: bearbyzaolcom

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