Early Eighties Mets Outfielder: Mike Howard (1981-1983)

Michael Frederic Howard was born on April 2nd, 1958, in Seattle Washington. The six foot two, switch hitter was drafted out of Sacramento High school by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 6th round of the 1976 amateur draft.

In the minor leagues, Howard earned the nick name "Mad Dog" due tohis hustling style of play. When drawing a walk, he would run down to first base just like Pete Rose use to do. 

In 1980 at AA Jackson, Howard hit .291 with 30 doubles although he was not known as a power hitter. The next year, he got promoted to AAA Tidewater where he hit .278 with 6 HRs 22 doubles & 33 RBIs playing in 120 games.

In 1982 he was back at Tidewater, batting .286, second on the club to Rusty Tillman, with 12 doubles & a team leading 10 triples. 

MLB Debut: Howard got a September call up in the second half of the 1981 strike shortened season. On September 12th, he made his debut & doubled off the St. Louis Cardinals, Mark Littell in the 8th inning of a 4-2 loss. The next day he got the start & drove in the Mets only two runs with a two-run single off Joaquin Andujar in another 4-2 loss to the Cardinals. In 14 games that month, Howard hit .167 (4-24) with one double & three RBIs.

1982: In 1982 he began the year at AAA Tidewater & got back to the Mets big league club in August. On August 6th, in his first game back he hit a pinch-hit sac fly RBI in a 7-3 loss in a twin bill split with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. 

Only Career HR: On September 24th Howard hit his only career HR, coming off the Phillies Ron Reed in a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia at Shea. Howard would see action in 33 games for the last place 1982 Mets, batting just .179 with a HR & three RBIs. 

1983: Howard was the Mets Opening Day right fielder in 1983, the day Tom Seaver made a triumphant return to the Mets. Seaver pitched six shutout innings going head-to-head with another veteran future Hall of Famer, the Phillies Steve Carlton. Howard drove in the first run of the game, with a bases loaded 6th inning single off Carlton in the Mets 2-0 win.

Quotes- Mike Howard: “The thing I remember about that day was that I was with Seaver warming up in the bullpen. When he finished throwing, he said ‘I need to do something'. (Before the game began). So, I pointed to a guy who had a cast on his arm or was in a wheelchair & said to Tom that he should give the guy a baseball. I was thinking ‘Wow. Tom Seaver just asked me what to do.’ That was cool.”

Howard wasn't used for two weeks; then the Mets sent him back down to AAA Tidewater. When the clubhouse attendant said to take his uniform, Howard said no, feeling strongly that he was coming back soon. Unfortunately, he never returned.

Later that year Darryl Strawberry was brought up & was the Mets Opening Day right fielder until 1990. 

As for Mike Howard, he hit below .200 getting demoted to the Rookie League before getting released. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates but did not make the club.

Trivia: Howard is one of three players to have his last career game be an Opening Day start. Also during his time with the Mets his roommate was current future MLB manager, Bruce Bochy.

Retirement: After baseball Howard became a painter & carpenter in Jackson, Mississippi. In 2010, when the Mets auctioned off some old items from Shea Stadium, Howard's daughter picked up one of his old uniforms, plus a large photo with him in the background as player.

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