Frank Howard with Caguas
On October 30, 2023, the author received a text from Manuel Iglesias-Beléndez indicating that Frank «El Condominio» Howard (1936-2023) passed away. He died in Aldie, Virginia, at 87. Howard was born in Columbus, Ohio, on August 8, 1936. His three years of winter ball were with the 1959-60 Escogido Lions in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) and 1960-62 with the Caguas Criollos in Puerto Rico’s Winter League (PRWL). He was «El Condominio» (The Condominium) in the PRWL. With the Los Angeles Dodgers (1958-1964), he was «Hondo,» and between 1965-1971, his Washington Senators’ nicknames were: «The Washington Monument» and «The Capital Punisher.» He was 6’7.» His playing weight fluctuated from 255 pounds early in his career to 280 pounds toward later years with the Senators and Detroit Tigers (September 1, 1971-September 30, 1973).
All-American in Basketball and Baseball (Ohio State University) and $108,000 Signing Bonus (Dodgers)
Howard was a collegiate basketball star at Ohio State, earning Second-Team All-America honors as a Center/Forward, 1956-57, with Seattle’s Elgin Baylor! https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/awards/men/all-america-1950-1959.html First-Team included Center Wilt Chamberlain from Kansas. In a three-game Madison Square Garden Holiday Tournament, Howard grabbed 32 rebounds in one contest and had 75 in three games, for 25 rebounds/game! In the Spring of 1958, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in the third round but signed a pro baseball contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a $108,000 signing bonus. Howard fell one semester short of graduating with a Physical Education degree. In 66 collegiate hoop games, Howard averaged 17.4 points and 13.9 rebounds per contest. He played two years of collegiate baseball, 1956 and 1957, skipping his Senior year to play professionally, and posted a .366 batting average (BA) for the 1957 Buckeyes, leading the team in doubles (six) and steals (six). The Baltimore Orioles offered him a $120,000 signing bonus, but he signed for $108,000 with the Dodgers, who first scouted him in 1956. His fine SABR bio by Mark Armour at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/frank-howard/ includes these and other details, e.g., Howard set aside $8,000 to purchase a new home for his parents.
Minors, 1958 NL Debut and Escogido Lions (1958-1960)
Pete Reiser, ex-Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder, managed Howard with the 1958 Green Bay Bluejays (65-64), Class B Three-I League, and with 1959-60 Escogido, LIDOM. Howard drilled 37 homers with Green Bay and drove in 119 runs to lead that loop. He met his first wife in Green Bay, and they resided there (off-seasons) through the early 1970s except for three winter ball seasons. Coincidentally, Howard met Vince Lombardi, legendary Green Bay Packers head football coach, from 1959-1967, and attended Packers home games circa 1963-1972. (Green Bay won five NFL titles under Lombardi—1961, 1962, and 1965-67—plus the first two Super Bowls in January 1967 and 1968.) Howard hit one homer in 29 AB for Los Angeles after his September 1958 call-up. He performed admirably for Reiser in 1959 with AA Victoria Rosebuds (Texas League) with 27 homers and 79 RBIs in 261 AB before a brief stint with the Dodgers (2-for-19). From July 1-September 13, 1959, Howard posted a .319 BA, 16 HR, and 47 RBIs in 295 AB for AAA Spokane, Pacific Coast League (PCL), managed by Bobby Bragan. Howard’s 43 combined (minor-league) homers and 126 RBIs earned him the 1959 Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year Award.
Tommy Davis, Howard’s Spokane teammate, won the 1959 PCL batting crown (.345) and was sent to the 1959-60 Caguas Criollos, due to the networking of Monchile Concepciíon, the Dodgers’ Caribbean Area scout. Howard went to the Dominican Republic (DR) to play for Escogido, whose skipper was Pete Reiser. Other Dodgers’ prospects with Escogido were catcher Norm Sherry and hurlers Stan Williams and Ed Roebuck. (Norm Sherry was responsible for helping Sandy Koufax «turn his career around» in 1961.) Howard earned LIDOM MVP honors with a league-leading 14 doubles, nine homers, 46 RBIs, 11 intentional walks, 114 total bases, and .523 SLG. The author interviewed Howard, Yankee Stadium dugout, October 5, 1991. «Every young player should play two to three years of winter league baseball to refine their skills,» affirmed Howard. Howard emphasized there is no substitute for nine innings of baseball every day. The added game e experience, learning a new language and the extra income were positive aspects of playing winter ball for Howard. One of Howard’s Escogido teammates, Felipe Alou recalled fishing with Howard on off-days. «Frank and I were with different big league organizations (Giants and Dodgers), but he was fun to be around, and the fans loved him,» stated Felipe Alou. «Frank deserved the LIDOM MVP Award and helped us win the finals versus Estrellas Orientales (EO).»
Twenty-three year old Frank Howard signing an autograph for a kid, Escogido dugout.
Ozzie Virgil, Sr., an Escogido teammate, recalled that Howard ate 12 scrambled eggs for breakfast every morning, plus multiple slices of toast and bacon. «There were four teams in our league—Águilas Cibaeñas, Escogido, EO, and Licey,» noted Virgil Sr. «We easily won the pennant (39-22 W-L) and defeated EO five games to one in the finals.» Stan Williams (3-0) and Ed Roebuck (2-0) combined for all five Escogido wins. The team hitting was excellent with a .385/.448/.557 slash line and 1.005 OPS! Howard batted .333 with a homer and four RBIs. Other regulars with their finals BA, HR, and RBIs were: Mateo (Matty) Alou, .591, 1, 6; Norm Sherry, .450, 1, 7; Curt Roberts, .414, 1, 3; Ricardo Joseph, .370, 2, 4; Felipe Alou, .346, 1, 5; Virgil Sr., .308, 1, 5; and, Carl Warwick, .300, 0, 1. Escogido’s four-man rotation in the regular season included: Stan Williams (12-6, 2.40 ERA), Ed Roebuck (9-0, 1.43), Juan Marichal (4-4, 2.16), and Danilo Rivas (7-4, 2.28). The team ERA was 2.28. «Garabato» Sackie (2-1, 3.60) was a reliever/spot starter. He pitched for the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers.
1960-62 Caguas Criollos
Héctor Barea, Caguas’s Public Relations official, fondly remembered that Howard ate a gallon of ice cream on the team bus when Caguas returned home from night games in Arecibo (1961-62), Mayagüez (1960-62) and Caguas (1960-62). Howard was quite religious and attended daily morning Mass in Caguas. «Frank did not drink or smoke,» said Barea. «He was a real gentleman—a kind and caring person and pleasure to have on our ballclub.» Monchile Concepción and Caguas management encouraged their imports (Stateside players) to live in Caguas homes and be «closer to the fans.» San Juan Senators defeated Caguas in the league finals, five games to three. On February 1, 1961, George Brunet won Game One, 2-1, at Sixto Escobar Stadium, helped by Howard’s 536-foot HR off Jack Fisher, the second-longest HR in PRWL history. Joshua Gibson’s estimated 600-foot HR at Escobar Stadium, for Santurce, March 1, 1942, versus Arecibo. (Howard also hit a homer in Pittsburgh that ended up next to a car in a parking lot, 560 feet from home plate.)
Howard followed up his 1960-61 Caguas season (.284, 10 HR, 25 RBIs), playing all 64 games to a .318 BA, 14 homers, and 49 RBIs, playing most of second-place Caguas’s 80 games. Caguas (43-37) trailed 45-35 Mayagüez by two games before losing a tough seven-game semi-final series to 42-38 Santurce. Julio Navarro, Pete Richert, Luis Tiant, and Earl Wilson were a top-notch starting quartet for Caguas, but Santurce had Bob Gibson, Juan «Terín» Pizarro, Craig Anderson, and Al Schroll. Caguas player-manager Jim Rivera appreciated Howard: «You could tell that Frank was going to have a long and productive big-league career,» said Rivera. «He gave it his all every game and improved as a player in the PRWL.»
And Howard himself complimented the league’s tough pitching. «You learned to hit in old Sixto Escobar Stadium facing Bob Gibson, Juan Pizarro, and San Juan’s Bob Bolin and Tite Arroyo, stated Howard. «Puerto Rico kept me in the big leagues and toughened me up. It was better than AAA.»
Craig Anderson On Facing Howard at Escobar Stadium and Busch Stadium
The author received a fascinating text from Craig Anderson on Tuesday evening, October 31, 2023. Anderson blanked Caguas (1961-62 regular season) through four innings.
«It was cloudy with rain predicted, and I got the first two outs in the fifth. Frank hit a high fly that I thought would be caught but just got over the left field fence. It was raining as we [Santurce] batted in the home fifth but did not score, and the [0-0] game was called. I did get him [Howard] out several times, mostly on grounders.»
Anderson then summarized allowing a long homer to Howard in St. Louis circa 1961. «I was pitching in relief for the Cards in St. Louis. He came up in the 12th. I went 3/2 and threw a slider that he hit a MILE to left-center. The ball smashed the neon preview sign—the longest HR I gave up. He was a tough out…had to work hard to get him out.»
April 3-4, 1965 Spring Training Games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium
The 10-year-old author and his father (Sam) attended a Sunday afternoon (April 4, 1965) spring training game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium between the Washington Senators and New York Yankees. Betting went on before/during the game. Fans bet $10 that Mickey Mantle would walk; $25 that Frank Howard would homer off Al Downing. Several times, the author served as an «intermediary» between bettors—passed dollar bills to the fans collecting the winnings. Some April 4, 1965 game highlights:
- Frank Howard nearly hit a homer off Downing, but Mantle caught it in deep left.
- Howard and Mantle played left field.
- Tom Tresh led off for the Yankees and played center.
- Arturo López replaced Héctor López in the sixth inning for the Yankees.
- Arturo scored the first of three Yankees runs in Washington’s 4-3 win.
- Clete Boyer, Horace Clarke, Tony Kubek, and Bobby Richardson played for the Yankees. Clarke, from St. Croix, played in the PRWL.
- Yankees Johnny Blanchard and Elston Howard both played for the San Juan Senators.
- Sam Van Hyning Jr., a lifelong Senators fan, was 10 years old when the Senators won their only World Series in 1924.
On Saturday, April 3, before 18,416 fans at Bithorn, Arturo López’s seventh-inning triple and a Duke Carmel sacrifice fly paved the way for an 8-7 Yankees win. Phil Ortega pitched for the 1964-65 Santurce Crabbers and won that night’s game. Those Crabbers were managed by Preston Gómez, Frank Howard’s final minor-league skipper with the 1960 Spokane Indians, before Howard became the 1960 National League (NL) Rookie of the Year.
Selected Frank Howard Major League Honors
- 1960 NL Rookie of the Year.
- 1963 World Series Champ (Dodgers).
- 1968 and 1970 American League (AL) HR champ—44 each season.
- Hit a record 10 homers in 20 AB (six games) in the 1968 season.
- 4x AL All-Star—hit a 1969 All-Star Game HR off Steve Carlton.
- Led AL in walks with 132 in 1970 (manager Ted Williams’s influence).
- Led AL with 330 total bases in 1968 and 340 in 1969.
- Hit the last HR in Washington Senators history (September 30, 1971) off Yankees Mike Kekich.
- Hit the first HR in Texas Rangers history (April 21, 1972) after a two-week players’ strike.
Table I: Frank Howard’s Professional Baseball Stats
#1963 World Series. ^1959-60 LIDOM finals. * Only includes 1961-62 but not 1960-61—multiple sources.
Frank Howard also managed the San Diego Padres and New York Mets and coached big league clubs. On October 27, 2019, from his wheelchair, Howard threw the first pitch at Nationals Park before Game Five of the World Series versus Houston. Buck Canel, long-time broadcaster enshrined in Cooperstown via the 1985 Ford Frick Award, said: «Frank Howard even had muscles in his ears.» Arturo López, via his October 31, 2023 e-mail, stated: «The Texas Rangers and all of baseball should have a moment of silence for Frank. He was the [Aaron] Judge of his time.»
Per Craig Anderson, «Frank tried a drag bunt in LA, which he popped up. I caught it between third and home. He was so big and strong but always a mild-mannered player. RIP Frank!»
Special thanks/appreciation to Frank Howard for his time at Yankee Stadium, on Saturday, October 5, 1991, and to Craig Anderson and Arturo López. Thanks to Felipe Alou, Héctor Barea, Jim Rivera, and Ozzie Virgil Sr. Historian Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing, photo placements, and furnished Howard’s Caguas hitting stats.