Remembering Frank Howard "The Capitol Punisher": Former Mets Coach (1982-1983 /1994-1996) & Manager (1983)

Frank Oliver Howard was born on August 8, 1936, in Columbus Ohio. His father was also a large man who worked as a railroad machinist & his mom, a homemaker. He was the third of six family children. Howard worked as a laborer at age 14, where the big kid handled a jack hammer.

Howard attended Ohio State University playing both baseball & basketball. He was drafted by the NBA Philadelphia Warriors but chose to play baseball instead. He was signed by the Dodgers in 1958 who had just relocated to Los Angeles. 

Trivia: He earned the nickname “Hondo” after John Wayne's character in the film of the same name.

 The six-foot seven inch tall, 255-pound Howard would become one of the biggest players of his era. Howard was an intimidating presence at the plate & his long HRs had him being compared to Babe Ruth.

MLB Career: Howard tore up the minors winning an MVP Award earning him an MLB cup of coffee with the Dodgers in 1958. In his second at bat he homered off Robin Roberts. Before his brief call up ended, he hit veteran Duke Snider in the head with a screaming line drive, while he was batting & Snider was on third base. Luckily Snider survived.

He had another big year at AAA getting brought up at the end of the 1959 Dodgers Championship season. In nine games he hit .143 with a HR & six RBIs.

In 1960 he started the year at AAA because of a run in about playing time with manager Walt Alston. He eventually came back & replaced Carl Furillo as the Dodger main right fielder winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He hit 23 HRs with 15 doubles 77 RBIs batting .268 with a .784 OPS. Howard was a free swinger & struck out 108 times that year. He would have over 100 strike outs in a season ten times, leading the league in 1967 in that category.

The next year he suffered a thumb injury which caused him to play in just 92 games, he batted .296 with 15 HRs.

In 1962 he also suffered thru injuries, playing in 141 games, but he had his best overall year in his Dodger career hitting .296 with 31 HRs (7th in the NL) with 
119 RBIs (5th in the NL). He hit 25 doubles with 80 runs scored, a .906 OPS & came in ninth in the MVP voting.

Trivia: On June 30th he hit a HR off the Mets Ray Daviault while driving in two runs, in the game where Sandy Koufax threw his first career no hitter beating New York 5-0.

At the end of the regular season, the Dodgers & Giants tied for first place. A three-game playoff was decided for the pennant. Howard struggled going just 1-11 in the series as the Giants beat he Dodgers advancing to the World Series. 

1963 Dodger Championship Season: The next season Howard wore glasses for the first time regularly while playing & it helped his vision at the plate, as well as on the field judging fly balls. He started out hot but then struggled mightily & shared time with Wally Moon in right field. He still led the team with 28 HRs, he had 64 RBIs (third on the Dodger team behind Ron Fairly & Tommy Davis) batting .273. He also set a Dodger record with 116 strike outs.

1963 World Series: The 1963 Dodgers went on to sweep the World Series behind the pitching of
Sandy Koufax & Don Drysdale. 

In Game #4 Howard blasted along HR off Whitey Ford in Dodger Stadium. He played in three of the four games in the series, batting .300 with two hits, the HR & a double. It would be big Frank’s only post season appearance in a 16-year career.

Another Kofax No- Hitter: On June 4th, 1964, Howard hit a three run HR at Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium driving in all three runs in Sandy Koufax’s third career no hitter. 

In 1964 Howard had another 20 plus HR season his batting average fell to .227 which had him see less playing time against right handers. He approached the front office to see where he stood, although he was not the next Babe Ruth, he was one of the league's best sluggers. In 134 games he drove in 69 runs with .735 OPS striking out 116 times. 

Trade to D.C.: In December 1964 Howard was traded along with Ken McMullen, Phil Ortega & Pete Richert to the Washington Senators for Claude Osteen, John Kennedy & $100,000.

Trivia: The 1965 Dodgers went on to win their third World Series in seven years, without Howard no Dodger hit more than 12 HRs on the season. The team was led by Koufax (26 wins) Don Drysdale (23 wins) & O'Steen (15 wins).

Howard would spend seven years in Washington D.C. earning his new nickname “the Capitol Punisher”. 

In Howard's first three seasons in D.C. he played for manager Gil Hodges. Howard now was an everyday player, becoming one of the league’s biggest sluggers & most feared hitters. By his third season with the Senators (1967) he would hit 36 HRs, then have three straight seasons of 40 or more HRs leading the NL twice in that category. In seven seasons in Washington, he would hit 20 or more HRs six times.

In 1968, known as the Year of the Pitcher, Howard led the American League in HRs (44) for his first HR title. He also led the league in extra base hits (75) slugging % (.552 %) & total bases (330) averaging a HR every 13 times up at bat. He was second in league in RBIs (106) posting a .890 OPS while striking out 141 times. That year Howard made his first of four straight All-Star teams. 

Trivia: During a stretch in May, Howard hit ten HRs in one single week, over a period of just twenty at bats. No one has ever come close to topping this feat, in MLB history. That year he also had a stretch of one HR in six straight games.

Quotes- Frank Howard: "All I'm trying to do is get three good cuts each tie up. I haven't changed my swing, I'm a streak hitter & I'm hot".

In 1969 he gave up his uniform #9 when the Senators hired Ted Williams as their manager. Williams taught Howard how to be more patient at the plate, go deeper into the count & draw more walks. That year he almost doubled his walks, going from 54 to 102 raising his on base & to .402%.

In 1969 the Senators had their only winning season in that version of the team's franchise history (1961-1971). Howard bashed a career high 48 HRs but was second to Harmon Killebrew in the AL. He drove in 111 runs (second to the A's Reggie Jackson) Frank led the league in intentional walks (29) He had career high in slugging .574 % & OPS .976. He matched a career best .296 batting average as well. He came in 4th in the MVP voting.

In 1970 he took back his reign as the AL champ with 46 HRs. He also led the league in RBIs (126)
& walks (132) posting a .416 on base % & .962 OPS coming in 5th in the MVP voting. In 18 games against the Cleveland Indians, manager Alvin Dark walked Howard intentionally 12 times.

Senators HR Leader: Howard hit 237 HRs in a Washington uniform the most by any player. His 1969 season is the all-around season bests by any Senators Player in history.

In 1971 the Senators played their last season in D.C.

HR in Last At bat in Washington: In final last at bat at RFK Stadium he hit a massive HR off Mike Kekich of the A.L. New York team. The pitch was called by manager Ralph Houck as a gift to the big man. Howard thanked the catcher when he touched home plate. He then threw his helmet into the crowd & said it was the biggest thrill of his playing career.

Texas Rangers: In 1972 the Senators moved to Texas and became the Rangers. He collected the first hit for the Rangers at home in Arlington Stadium, naturally a HR. But Howard who must be remembered as an original Ranger struggled in the team’s first year in Arlington. He batted just .244 with 9 HRs in 95 games played & was sold to the Detroit Tigers for their pennant run. 

The Tigers won the AL East, but Howard was ineligible to play in the ALCS loss to the Oakland A's.

At age 36 his career was winding down, he finished his last two seasons in Detroit by 1973. On September 8th he hit his final career HR coming at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.

Career Stats: He finished up his 16-year career with 382 lifetime HRs (70th All time) 1119 RBIs (208th all time), 1774 hits 245 doubles 35 triples 783 walks 662 extra base hits (242nd all time). He batted a career .273 with a .352 on base % & .851 OPS He struck out 1460 times putting him 83rd on the all-time K list.

Retirement: After his playing days, Frank first coached under George Bamberger in Milwaukee with the Brewers from 1977-1980. He then managed the San Diego Padres during the strike shortened 1981 season. 

Persona: Howard was known as being a gentle giant, a nice guy who always appreciated the fans. 

Mets Manager: In 1982 Howard came over to the New York Mets as a batting coach when Bamberger became the manager.

After Bamberger resigned in 1983 because he couldn't take the losing, Howard was named the tenth manager in Mets history.

He basically was just an interim manager, who didn’t have much to work with especially in the pitching department. Howard took over the team on June 3rd, 1983, while playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. At the time the team was in sixth place 9.5 games back.

In his first game, the Mets beat Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers 5-2 as Ed Lynch earned the victory. The Mets would win two out of three in Los Angeles but faltered from there. 

They did give Howard two four game win streaks in early August, winning eight of nine games, their best streak under his tenure. His Mets finished in last place, as the team went 52-64 in 116 games under his watch.

Although there were a few positives that season as well. Howard inserted Daryl Strawberry in the lineup permanently & he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. 

That summer the Mets acquired Keith Hernandez in one of the best trades in Met history under his watch. Howard was replaced by Davey Johnson the following season (1984).

Mets Coach: A decade later, Howard returned as a Met coach in 1994. He stayed for three seasons through 1996 under Dallas Green & briefly with Bobby Valentine.

He remained an active coach with the AL New York team, the Seattle Mariners & Tampa Devil Rays. He also worked in player development in the 2000s.

Honors: When baseball came back to Washington D.C. with the Nationals, the Big Man was honored again. He regularly appeared at baseball functions in the DC area for many years. He was involved in charity work at children’s hospitals in the area as well.

In 2014 he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the NLDS vs the St. Louis Cardinals.

Family: While playing at A ball in Green Bay he met Carol Johansky who worked as a secretary for the Green Bay Gazette. They were married in 1959 & settled in the Green Bay area raising six children. 

They divorced in 1991. Frank married his second wife Donna in 1992 settling in the Northern Virginia area.

Passing: Howard passed away on October 30th 2023 at age 87.


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