In the annals of Major League Baseball, few names evoke the awe and admiration that Frank Howard’s does. Standing tall at 6-foot-7 and weighing around 270 pounds, he was an imposing figure both on and off the baseball diamond. Frank Howard’s legacy is etched in the history of the old Washington Senators, where he held the distinction of being one of the game’s most feared hitters. In this article, we pay tribute to the ‘Capital Punisher’ and celebrate his remarkable contributions to the world of baseball.
Early Life and Journey to the Big Leagues
Frank Oliver Howard was born on August 8, 1936, in Columbus, Ohio. He came into this world as a true giant, weighing more than 13 pounds at birth. Howard’s exceptional size and athletic prowess made him a highly recruited basketball player duringhis college years at Ohio State, where he averaged an impressive 20 points per game and earned recognition on several All-America teams. However, his heart was always set on baseball.
The Legend Begins: Los Angeles Dodgers
In 1958, Frank Howard made a momentous decision. He left college just short of graduating to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who saw in him the potential to become a baseball legend. In his early years with the Dodgers, he made an immediate impact, earning the National League Rookie of the Year title in 1960. However, it was in the following years that Howard’s reputation as a powerhouse hitter truly took off.
Unleashing the Power: 1963 World Series
In the 1963 World Series, Frank Howard’s name would be etched in history forever. He hit what was famously described as “the longest double in the 41-year history of Yankee Stadium” off the legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford. The ball hit a speaker in left center, 457 feet away, and bounced back like a bullet, leaving an indelible mark on the stadium’s legacy. Howard’s contributions helped the Dodgers secure a four-game sweep over the New York Yankees, and it was clear that he was a force to be reckoned with.
The ‘Year of the Pitcher’ and Mr. Howard’s Dominance
In 1968, often referred to as the “Year of the Pitcher,” Frank Howard had a season for the ages. He launched an astounding 44 home runs, outshining all other players in the game by a considerable margin. Howard’s immense power and consistency electrified ballparks across the American League, and his sheer presence at the plate sent shivers down the spines of opposing pitchers. He became not just a baseball player but a phenomenon, attracting fans from far and wide who wanted to witness his legendary home runs.
Washington Senators and the ‘Capital Punisher’
In 1965, Frank Howard was traded to the Washington Senators, marking a pivotal moment in his career. He found a new home in Washington and regained his form, winning the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year award. During his seven-year tenure with the Senators, he solidified his reputation as one of baseball’s most prominent sluggers and endeared himself to the city’s fans. Howard’s monstrous home runs and towering presence in the batter’s box earned him a host of imposing nicknames, including ‘Hondo,’ ‘the Washington Monument,’ and perhaps most evocatively, ‘the Capital Punisher.’
A Streak for the Ages: The Summer of 1968
One of the most iconic chapters in Frank Howard’s career unfolded during the summer of 1968. In a six-game stretch, he achieved the impossible, slamming an astonishing 10 home runs and driving in 17 runs. The baseball world was in awe as he hit a home run in Detroit that “bounced atop the 90-foot-high roof covering the upper deck and left the ballpark,” leaving estimations that it traveled at least 550 feet. The mere thought of a baseball being hit that far was met with skepticism, but Howard consistently defied the odds.
Transition to Coaching and Enduring Legacy
Despite a spectacular three-year peak from 1968 through 1970, Frank Howard fell just short of earning a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He transitioned into coaching and managed minor league teams, sharing his baseball wisdom with the next generation of players. Howard’s presence in the baseball world remained significant even after his playing days.
Frank Howard, the ‘Capital Punisher,’ left an indelible mark on the world of baseball. His awe-inspiring power at the plate, his towering stature, and his ability to hit monumental home runs made him a true legend. The legacy of Frank Howard lives on, not just in the record books but in the hearts of baseball fans who had the privilege of witnessing his greatness. His larger-than-life persona and unforgettable moments on the field continue to inspire generations of baseball enthusiasts, making him a symbol of baseball excellence. Frank Howard will forever be remembered as one of the most iconic figures in the history of America’s pastime.