Thursday, August 06, 2009

A week ago, I traveled to Washington, DC to attend the annual convention of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). A highlight was the local area former players' session, with Frank Howard (representing the old Washington Senators) and Rick Dempsey (representing the nearby Baltimore Orioles). With moderator George Michael of "Sports Machine" television fame leading the way, the players provided a lively and thoughtful discussion.

Howard is 6-foot-7, so I wanted to get a picture of him standing up, to dramatize his height. Also, my family is from Los Angeles and Howard played for the Dodgers from 1958-1964; with my 1962 birth year, I would have no recollection of that era, but my father would.

As a prototypical power-hitter for much of his career (until he learned to become more selective and raised his walk totals), Howard could experience both extreme hotness and coldness. On the positive side, between May 12-18, 1968, Howard hit 10 home runs in six games.

On the negative side, however, Howard once struck out seven times in a doubleheader, a record he shares with a few other players. (Howard told the story a little differently at the SABR session, saying that he struck out six straight times and then hit into a double play, thus producing eight outs in seven at-bats. Retrosheet's archived box scores of the games apparently in question -- Game 1 and Game 2 -- do not support this version, however.)

When I mentioned seeing Frank Howard speak at the SABR conference to my dad, he told me that he had seen Howard play basketball for Ohio State against UCLA in Los Angeles way back when. Since I was now in the habit of looking things up, I searched the library website at my home university for documentary evidence of Howard playing a college basketball game in L.A. Here are some brief excerpts of what I found...

When all was said and done, I learned a lot about Frank Howard, namely his highs and lows in the batter's box, and that he had played college basketball. It seems that he was capable of noteworthy performances in either sport, although whether they were beyond chance variation, I don't know.

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