Memory of Dick Howser’s career

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Where do we even start with Dick Howser? Her life reads like a fairy tale. He was a small kid, a bit skinny, and although he was a great high school baseball player, coaches thought he was too small to play college ball. Undeterred, he walked through the state of Florida. During his try, he swallowed every batted ball and at home, swung the bat with authority, spanking all courts. After the test, FSU coach Danny Litwhiler said: “I had a shortstop!”

Howser reached 0.422 in his sophomore, winning All-American honors. He repeated as an All-American in his junior campaign. One of Howser’s high school buddies also dated Florida State, a young footballer named Burt Reynolds. Reynolds’ roommate was future football coach and announcer Lee Corso. Have you ever wondered how these high performing, high profile people find themselves? Corso nicknamed Reynold’s “bait” and told the obscene story that Reynolds was so good looking that he could walk across campus, meet two women, one pretty, the other a little less, and bring them back into the room. He said Reynolds would take the pretty one, while he would take the other, who was prettier than any woman he could have shot.

However, Howser was just a business. He reached 0.375 in his career for the Seminoles and after his senior season at FSU, signed an amateur contract with the Kansas City Athletics and scout Clyde Klutz for $ 22,000. Athletics had previously signed his younger brother Tommy, who spent two seasons in the A minor league system. Dick Howser was sent to Class B Winona, where in 88 games he reached .288 with an OBP of. 412. In 1959, the organization pushed him to Sioux City, where he continued to strike, cutting .278 / .461 / .378. He split the 1960 season between Sioux City and Shreveport, reducing a total of .342 / .486 / .500.

It was enough for the big club. Track and field, still short of talent, installed Howser, 25, as the shortstop for the first day of the 1961 season. Howser responded big, cutting 0.280 / 0.377 / 0.362 with 171 hits, 108 runs scored. , 29 doubles, 6 triples, 37 stolen and 92 walks. He’s only struck 38 at bat in 719 home plate appearances. That production was good enough that Howser was named to the American League All-Star team and propelled him to second place in the Rookie of the Year vote. Unfortunately for Howser and the Athletics, his remaining time with the team would be hampered by various injuries and his 1961 totals ended up being career highs for him. May 25e, 1963, the Athletics traded Howser to Cleveland with wide receiver Joe Azcue for wide receiver Doc Edwards and $ 100,000.

Howser in 1961
Photo by Robert Riger / Getty Images

Howser’s arrival put the Indians to an 18-9 score before injuries sidelined him again. Over the winter, Howser worked hard to stay in shape and avoid the injury virus. It worked. He played a career-high 162 games, slicing a respectable .256 / .335 / 0.319 while posting a career-high RBI with 52. Howser however was never able to shake off the injury virus, injuring himself in ankle and losing its starting place. In December 1966, the Indians traded Howser to the Yankees. Over the next two seasons, Howser played the role of the super-utility man, appearing in 148 games. His best year with New York came in 1967, when he hit 0.268.

He called it a career after the 1968 season ended and immediately stepped into the coaching box, serving as the Yankees third baseman from 1969 to 1978. He left the Yankees for the coaching job. -Head at Florida State for the 1979 season, guiding his alma mater to a 43-15 record.

As was the case with the Yankees at the time, changes in leadership were commonplace. Billy Martin self-destructs, fighting with a marshmallow vendor, causing one of his many layoffs. George Steinbrenner appealed to Howser, asking him to take the reins. Howser’s casual style was perfect for the star-filled Yankees. He guided them through the difficult American League East, posting a 103-59 record. George Brett and the Royals awaited them in the Championship Series. Brett had been from another world in 1980, hitting 0.390, and his three-time bombshell on Goose Gossage’s top deck propelled the Royals to a three-game sweep against the hated Yanks. Howser, who has never been one to make fun of Steinbrenner, resigned on November 21. Many have speculated that Howser was sacked for not canning his third base coach Mike Ferraro for what Steinbrenner considered a mistake in sending Willie Randolph home in Game 2. Brett’s relay cut Randolph to the plate, prompting the boss to spew a flood of abuse on national television.

Either way, the Yankees ‘misfortune was the Royals’ good fortune. When the 1981 Royals got off to a 10-10 start, Ewing Kauffman acted, sacking Jim Frey and returning Howser to Kansas City. One amazing thing about Howser is that in all of his years of management, his teams have never finished below second place. He did a terrific job handling the rebuilt Royals on the fly.

The 1980 World Series team had been essentially broken up, either because of age or drug use. Howser managed to snatch 90 wins from the 1982 team and 84 wins from a youth squad in 1984. It all happened in 1985, when Kansas City fought off the California Angels to claim the American League crown. the west. They overcame a three-to-one deficit against the Toronto Blue Jays in the Championship Series to advance to their second World Series. This series, as you well know, was not easy either. Favorite St. Louis took a three-game-one advantage, before the Royals battled to win their first world championship. One of the touching moments in this series was after Game 4, when the Royals were on the verge of being knocked out, Reynolds and most of what Howser called his “Tallahassee Gang” unexpectedly showed up at the Royals hotel. They had flown to Saint-Louis, coming from different parts of the country, to provide emotional support to their friend. Of course you know the rest of this story, how the Cardinals imploded in Game 6, fell apart after a bad call. They never recovered, came off completely the next night as Bret Saberhagen pitched the Royals to the title. Dick Howser was at the top of the baseball world at the age of 49.

Kansas City Royals vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1985 World Series

Serial number: X32251

The Royals had a bit of a hangover in the 1986 season, opening 40-48. Howser had managed to win the American League in the All-Star Game, but was hampered by severe headaches and memory loss. A CT scan showed a brain tumor, malignant, in the left frontal lobe of Howser’s brain. On July 22, he underwent surgery at St. Luke’s in Kansas City. Howser underwent a second operation in December in Los Angeles. Always beating, he tried to come back, arriving in spring training on February 21. Anyone who has had major surgery knows how much it costs you. The mere fact that Howser attempted a comeback is incredible. After two days, he realized he didn’t have the strength or the energy to lead the club and quit.

He underwent experimental surgery in Pasadena, Calif. On March 20. Cancer, especially of the brain, is a relentless enemy. On June 17, 1987, he claimed Dick Howser at the age of 51. Howser’s death was a mind-boggling loss for Royal Nation. He is survived by his wife Nancy and his daughters Jana and Jill. Unfortunately, two pitchers from Howser’s team in 1981 were also lost to brain cancer, Dan Quisenberry in 1998 and Ken Brett in 2003. A third pitcher on this team, Paul Splittorff, was lost to brain cancer. of melanoma in 2011.

On July 3, 1987, Howser’s number 10 was the first number the Royals had ever retired. He was also inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame that year, along with Cookie Rojas and Splittorff. Later in 1987, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce created the Dick Howser Trophy, which became the college baseball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Past and future Royals Alex Gordon, Andrew Benintendi and Brady Singer won the Howser Trophy.

Florida State University renamed its baseball stadium “Dick Howser Stadium” and Howser was named to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

When the Royals renovated Kauffman Stadium in 2009, they unveiled a statue of Howser. The statue shows Howser in a position many royal fans remember, arms crossed with his right leg on the top step of the dugout, watching the action. Howser compiled a 404-365 record as manager of the Royals, good for a 0.562 winning percentage, which places him third in royal history behind Whitey Herzog and Jim Frey.

We have all lost loved ones to cancer, parents, children, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles or dear friends. It’s a horrible disease and although the medical community has made great strides in detection and treatment, when they claim someone like Howser, you know we still have a long way to go. After her first operation, Howser’s mother, Marjorie, said, “I consider this to be another ball game. It’s the drummer. He’s the runner and he has to score. He’s going to win this game. I spoke to him on the phone the other day and he didn’t even look like he had experienced anything. He looked like he was back to normal.

Sometimes we win the fight. Sometimes the cancer wins. Howser’s story touches me deeply. Both of my parents are cancer survivors and I am grateful for each day they have passed. My mother, who just celebrated her birthday a few days ago, is now a ten year survivor. Happy Birthday Mom.

I love this quote from Jim Beaver: “Today we fight. Tomorrow we are fighting. The next day, we fight. And if this disease plans to whip us, you better bring some lunch, because it’s going to have a long day doing it. “

Cancer claims more than 600,000 Americans each year. We can all do our part to fight this often fatal disease. Donate to the American Cancer Society or another organization involved in the fight against cancer. And thank you for doing it.

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