Simply put, Harold is a science teacher who loves baseball. Actually, he is a self described "baseball fan who became a science teacher because he couldn't hit or throw." He has been involved with the New York City Education system in various capacities since 1962 and he received his doctorate in science education from NYU in 1968. He credits Casey Stengel with being responsible for his first baseball "degree," and in 1998, Joe Torre and Don Zimmer saw to it that he received the advanced version. For that he says, "I cannot thank them enough."
Elston Howard is one of the most underrated catchers of all time. While his excellence was recognized when he played, especially by his peers, his legacy has been diminished with the passage of time. This is due primarily to the fact that he was not a colorful player and was not fully appreciated by the fans since he replaced Yogi Berra as the Yankees catcher. Today, whenever great catchers are discussed, Howard's name is rarely mentioned, except among those who played in his era or who saw him play. That is unfortunate.
Howard joined the Yankees in 1955 and as a rookie outfielder who caught only 9 games, batted .290 with 10 home runs. He batted .314 in 1958, caught 67 games as Yogi's back up and did not become the full time catcher until 1960. Elston had some outstanding offensive seasons, batting .348 with 21 home runs in 1961, .279 with 21 home runs in 1962, .287 with 28 home runs in 1963, and .313 with 15 home runs in 1964. He was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1963.
But it was a
defensive player that Howard excelled. He was not fast but
he was quick. Howard had fantastic reflexes and in 1138
games at catcher, had 479 assists and was charged with only
51 errors for a fielding percentage of .993. To get some
perspective, in 1699 games, Yogi had 798 assists and was
charged with 110 errors for a fielding percentage of .989.
Jorge Posada, after the 2002 season, in 684 games, had 291
assists and was charged with 42 errors, for a fielding
percentage of .991.
Perhaps the most significant moments of his career came as the Yankees left fielder during the 1958 World Series. Norm Siebern was the regular left fielder but he had problems with the sun in Game 4, losing two fly balls to set up Milwaukee's runs in a 3-0 Warren Spahn victory. Yankees manager Casey Stengel replaced Siebern in left field, which is one of the most difficult outfield positions because of the autumn sun, with Howard for Game 5.
It was a cool, cloudless October Monday in New York. Bob Turley was facing former Yankee Lew Burdette, who had beaten the Yankees three times in 1957 to lead the Braves to the World Championship, and who was the winner of Game 2 of this Series. The game was scoreless until Gil McDougald hit a solo home run that hit the left field foul pole in the third inning. The Yankees had finally broken through against Burdette and were clinging to the slim lead McDougald provided.
Then it happened in the top of the sixth inning. Speedy Milwaukee center fielder Billy Bruton was on first base with one out and Red Schoendienst was batting. Bruton took off on a hit and run play. Schoendienst hit a short drive to left field that looked as if it would fall in for a single but slow footed left fielder Elston Howard got a great jump on the ball, picked it off his shoe tops before it hit the ground, and fired to first to double up Bruton. That play turned the game and the Series around. The Braves did not score and then the Yankees scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth for an insurmountable lead, especially the way Turley was pitching.
won Game 6 in ten innings to even the Series and force Game
7. The Braves jumped off to a 1-0 lead, the Yankees went
ahead 2-1, and Del Crandall hit a solo home run to tie the
score. With two outs and no one on base in the Yankees
eighth, Yogi led off with a double to right, bringing up
Howard to face Burdette, who had started on two days rest.
There was no thought on the part of Braves manager Fred
Haney of relieving Burdette. This was 1958 and pitchers
usually finished what they started.
Many forget that the year before, with the Yankees leading the Series in games, 2-1, they were trailing Game 4 by three runs in the top of the ninth inning. The tying runs were on base with two outs and Elston Howard was at bat with a full count. Braves starter Warren Spahn delivered and Howard hit one of the great clutch home runs in World Series history to tie the game at 4-4.
The Yankees went ahead by a run in the tenth, but pinch hitter Nippy Jones led off for the Braves and when Tommy Byrne's first pitch was in the dirt, Jones claimed it hit his foot. He showed umpire Augie Donatelli a spot on the ball, which Donatelli interpreted to be shoe polish. Jones was awarded first base; the Braves tied the game, and then won it when Eddie Mathews hit a home run. Howard's clutch home run is remembered as often as those of Tino Martinez, whose two out, ninth inning home run tied Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, and Scott Brosius, whose two out, ninth inning home run, tied Game 5 of the same World Series.
Howard's number 32 has been retired by the Yankees. Bill
Dickey, Yogi Berra, and Thurman Munson have had their
numbers retired. Howard, in his quiet Yankee way, was as
brainy as Dickey, as clutch as Yogi, and in his own quiet
Yankee way, as competitive as Munson. Enough said.
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His .333 lifetime World Series batting average is fourth with at least 75 ABs on the all-time series list.
Known as "The Scooter", he played in the World Series 10 out of his 13 MLB years.
"If you weighed 50 more pounds, I'd punch you."
Babe Ruth to Miller Huggins
Miller Huggins to Babe Ruth
has taken up the cause of the average NY sports fan who cannot access the Yankees on their cable system. www.everyfan.net
Who was the first NY Yankees pitcher to hit a home run and when did he hit it?
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