Elston Gene Howard (February 23, 1929 – December 14, 1980) was an American professional baseball player.
Howard on the field was a catcher, left fielder and coach. During a 14-year baseball career, he played in the Negro leagues and Major League Baseball from 1948 through 1968, primarily for the New York Yankees. He also played for the Kansas City Monarchs and the Boston Red Sox.
In 1955, he was the first African American player on the Yankees roster; this was eight years after Jackie Robinson had broken the MLB color barrier in 1947. Howard was named the American League's Most Valuable Player for the 1963 pennant winners after finishing third in the league in slugging average and fifth in home runs, becoming the first black player in AL history to win the honor. He won Gold Glove Awards in 1963 and 1964, in the latter season setting AL records for putouts and total chances in a season. His lifetime fielding percentage of .993 was a major league record from 1967 to 1973, and he retired among the AL career leaders in putouts (7th, 6,447) and total chances (9th, 6,977).
|Catcher / Left fielder|
|Born: February 23, 1929|
St. Louis, Missouri
|Died: December 14, 1980 (aged 51)|
New York City, New York
|April 14, 1955, for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 29, 1968, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Runs batted in||762|
Major League Baseball
|Career highlights and awards|
Howard was born in St. Louis, Missouri to Travis Howard and Emaline Hill, a nurse at a local hospital. When he was six years old, his parents divorced and his mother remarried. Howard was a standout athlete at Vashon High School.
In 1948, nineteen-year-old Howard turned down college football scholarship offers from Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State and instead signed to play professional baseball for $500 a month with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League under manager Buck O'Neil. He was an outfielder for three seasons and in 1950 roomed with Ernie Banks.
Howard missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons due to his military service in the U.S. Army.
In 1953, Howard played for the Kansas City Blues of the Class AAA American Association. The next year, the Yankees invited Howard to spring training and converted him into a catcher, despite the presence of Yogi Berra as the Yankees' starting catcher.
He played with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Class AAA International League in 1954, where he led the league in triples, with 16, to go along with 22 home runs, 109 runs batted in and a .330 average, winning the league's MVP award.
Howard made the Yankees' major league roster at the start of the 1955 season. On April 14, 1955 (the second game of the season), Howard made his major league debut when he entered the game in the sixth inning as a left fielder. Howard hit a single in his only plate appearance of the day. He became the first African American to play for the Yankees. Howard was known to be very slow afoot. This caused Casey Stengel, the Yankees' manager, to say, "Well, when they finally get me a nigger, I get the only one who can't run." When Howard first came to the Yankees, Stengel referred to him as "Eightball". Howard made his first start on April 28, because it was difficult to find room for Howard in the lineup. Berra won his third MVP award in 1955, and Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer were solid outfield regulars. Stengel used Howard as a backup catcher and occasional outfielder; he competed for playing time with Norm Siebern and Enos Slaughter. He hit .290 with 10 home runs and 43 runs batted in (RBIs) in 97 games played for the season.
In the 1955 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Howard hit a home run off of Don Newcombe in his first at bat in the second inning of Game 1. The round tripper tied the game at 2-2, and the Yankees went on to win the game, 6-5. Howard's ground ball out to Pee Wee Reese in Game 7 ended the Series; it was the first time in six meetings that the Yankees had lost to Brooklyn. In the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn he played only in Game 7, but his solo home run off Newcombe in the fourth inning was one of four Yankee HRs in Johnny Kucks' 9-0 victory. Against the Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series, his three-run homer off Warren Spahn with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4 tied the score 4-4, though Milwaukee won 7-5 in the 10th inning. As the Yankees again met the Braves in the 1958 World Series, his impact did not become notable until Game 5, when he caught Red Schoendienst's sinking fly ball in the sixth inning and made a throw to catch Bill Bruton off first base for a double play, preserving a 1-0 lead. In Game 6, he threw Andy Pafko out at the plate in the second inning, and singled and scored with two out in the tenth inning for a 4-2 Yankee lead; the run proved decisive, as the Braves came back to score once in the bottom of the frame. In Game 7, his two-out RBI single scored Berra for a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, with New York going on to a 6-2 win, completing only the second comeback by a team from a 3-1 deficit in a Series. Howard was later given the Babe Ruth Award, presented by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, as the top player in the Series, although the World Series MVP Award was won by teammate Bob Turley.
By 1959, Howard was often playing at first base in order to remain in the lineup. Despite not finding a regular position yet, he was first selected to the All-Star team in 1957, the first of nine consecutive years through 1965 in which he made the squad; he would appear in six of the games (1960 to 1964), including both 1961 contests.
In 1960, Howard finally took over the majority of Berra's catching duties, although his .245 batting average was his lowest to date. The Yankees met the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series, and Howard's two-run pinch-hit homer off Roy Face in the ninth inning of Game 1 brought the Yankees within two runs, though they lost 6-4. Howard hit .462 in the Series, but did not play in Game 7 after being hit on the hand by a pitch in the second inning of Game 6, and could only watch as the Pirates won the Series, 10-9, on Bill Mazeroski's home run leading off the bottom of the ninth. In 1961 he raised his average 103 points to a career-best .348 mark on a team that featured Roger Maris' record 61-home run season; Howard also enjoyed his first 20-homer campaign, along with 77 RBI, as the Yankees set a major league record with 240 HRs. He finished tenth in the MVP voting that year, won by Maris. Meeting the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 Series, he and Bill Skowron had solo home runs in the 2-0 Game 1 victory, and he scored three runs in the final 13-5 win in Game 5. He followed up with a 1962 season in which he batted .279 with a career-best 91 RBI, again hitting over 20 homers, and collecting eight RBI in an August 19 game in Kansas City which the Yankees won, 21-7. Although Howard batted only .143 in the 1962 World Series against the San Francisco Giants, the Yankees won in seven games.
In his 1963 MVP season, he batted .287 with 28 home runs, 85 RBI and a .528 slugging average, also winning his first Gold Glove. The Yankees were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1963 Series, though Howard hit .333 and drove in the only Yankee run of Game 2. He batted .313 (just ten points behind batting champion Tony Oliva) with 84 RBI in 1964, again winning the Gold Glove and placing third in the MVP vote as Berra took over Ralph Houk's post as manager. His totals of 939 putouts and 1,008 total chances broke the AL records of 872 and 963 set by Earl Battey with the 1962 Minnesota Twins; Bill Freehan would top Howard's marks with the 1967 Detroit Tigers. Howard also led the AL in fielding average in 1964 with a .998 mark. Playing in his ninth World Series in ten years against the St. Louis Cardinals, he batted .292 though the Yankees were overcome in seven games; he tied a Series record with three passed balls, including two in the 9-5 Game 1 loss. In 1965, Howard injured his elbow during spring training. He played in four games through April, and then had surgery, missing five more weeks.
Howard struggled in 1967. He backed up Jake Gibbs and batted only .198 through the start of August. On August 3, 1967, Howard was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Pete Magrini and a player to be named later (Ron Klimkowski). Though he batted only .147 for Boston, he was effective in handling the pitchers; teammate Tony Conigliaro noted, "I don't think I ever saw a pitcher shake off one of his signs. They had too much respect for him." In 1967, Howard also took over Sherm Lollar's major-league record for career fielding average; Freehan moved ahead of him in 1973. Howard had his last postseason highlight in the 1967 World Series against the Cardinals when his bases-loaded single in the ninth inning of Game 5 drove in two runs for a 3-0 lead. The hit was crucial, as former teammate Maris homered in the bottom of the inning for the Cardinals before the Red Sox closed out the 3-1 win. St. Louis, however, won the Series in seven games. It was the sixth losing World Series team Howard played on; he and Pee Wee Reese have the dubious distinction for playing on the most losing World Series teams.
On October 29, 1968, Howard was released by the Red Sox. Over his 14-year career, he batted .274 with 167 home runs, 1,471 hits, 762 RBI, 619 runs, 218 doubles, 50 triples and nine stolen bases in 1,605 games. His .427 slugging average trailed those of only Dickey (.486), Berra (.482) and Mickey Cochrane (.478) among AL catchers. His 54 total World Series games placed him behind only teammates Berra and Mantle. Howard is also credited with being the first to use the extended index and pinky finger (corna) to indicate that there were two out in the inning, this being more visible to teammates in the outfield than the usual "two" gesture of the index and middle fingers.
Howard returned to the Yankees the following year, where he served as first-base coach from 1969 to 1979. He was the first black coach in the American League. The team won the AL pennant in 1976 and the World Series in 1977 and 1978. During a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in June 1977, Howard and Yogi Berra were peacemakers during a dugout incident between Yankees player Reggie Jackson and Yankees manager Billy Martin.
After Howard's coaching career ended, he became an administrative assistant with the Yankees; however, that position did not last long due to declining health. Howard was diagnosed with myocarditis, a rare heart disease that causes rapid heart failure. He was considering a heart transplant, but his condition quickly deteriorated. After staying a week at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, Howard died of the heart ailment at age 51 in 1980. He was interred at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey.
|Elston Howard's number 32 was retired by the New York Yankees in 1984.|
In Howard's memory, the Yankees wore black armbands on their sleeve during the 1981 season. On July 21, 1984, the Yankees retired Howard's uniform number 32 and dedicated a plaque in his honor for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. On that day the Yankees also bestowed the same honors to Roger Maris who, unlike Howard, was still living. Howard's plaque describes him as "A man of great gentleness and dignity" and "one of the truly great Yankees."
Howard is credited with inventing the batting "doughnut", a circular lead weight with a rubber shell used by batters in the on-deck circle by placing it around a bat to make it feel heavier, so that it will feel lighter at the plate and easier to swing. Its widespread use caused the discontinuation of the practice of hitters swinging multiple bats at the same time while waiting to hit. Howard helped two New Jersey entrepreneurs, Frank Hamilton and Vince Salvucci, to market the bat weight and lent his name to the product.
The 1955 New York Yankees season was the team's 53rd season in New York, and its 55th season overall. The team finished with a record of 96–58, winning their 21st pennant, finishing 3 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians. New York was managed by Casey Stengel. The Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they were defeated by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 7 games.1955 World Series
The 1955 World Series matched the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Yankees, with the Dodgers winning the Series in seven games to capture their first championship in franchise history. It would be the only Series the Dodgers won while based in Brooklyn, as the team relocated to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. This was the fifth time in nine years that the Yankees and the Dodgers met in the World Series, with the Yankees having won in 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953; the Yankees would also win in the 1956 rematch.
This Series also marked the end of a long period of invulnerability for the Yankees in the World Series. It was the Yankees' first loss in a World Series since 1942 and only their second since 1926. While the Yankees were 15–2 in Series appearances during that time, they would lose again in 1957, 1960, 1963, and 1964, for a record of 4–5 in World Series over the next decade.1958 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The 1958 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 25th playing of the midsummer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 8, 1958, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, the home of the Baltimore Orioles of the American League.
This was the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game without an extra base hit.For this Diamond Jubilee game, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown by U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon, who became President 10 years later. The attendance was 48,829. The game was broadcast on the NBC television and radio networks.
The first hit of the game was by legendary center fielder Willie Mays. The last scoring came in the sixth inning when the American League team took the lead after an error by third baseman Frank Thomas led to a single by Gil McDougald. Early Wynn was the winning pitcher as the American League scored a 4-3 victory.
Several players were named to the team but did not get into the game. These included Billy Pierce, Tony Kubek, Harvey Kuenn, Sherm Lollar, Rocky Bridges, Ryne Duren, Whitey Ford, and Elston Howard for the American League. For the National League team, Johnny Antonelli, Richie Ashburn, George Crowe, Eddie Mathews, Don McMahon, Walt Moryn, Johnny Podres, Bob Purkey, and Bob Schmidt were on the roster but did not play.
The next All-Star Game to be played in Baltimore was in 1993; that edition was aired on both CBS TV and radio, and played in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, with a special commemoration of this game's 35th anniversary.1958 New York Yankees season
The 1958 New York Yankees season was the 56th season for the team in New York, and its 58th season overall. The team finished with a record of 92–62, winning their 24th pennant, finishing 10 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. In the World Series, they defeated the Milwaukee Braves in 7 games. New York was managed by Casey Stengel. The Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium. In 1958, the Yankees became New York City's only professional baseball team after the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the New York Giants left for San Francisco. The Yankees would hold this distinction until 1962, when the New York Mets began play.1958 World Series
The 1958 World Series was a rematch of the 1957 World Series, with the New York Yankees beating the defending champion Milwaukee Braves in seven games for their 18th title, and their seventh in 10 years. With that victory, the Yankees became only the second team in Major League Baseball history to come back from a 3–1 deficit to win a best-of-seven World Series; the first was the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925. (The 1903 Boston Red Sox came back from a 3–1 deficit in a best-of-nine affair.) These teams would meet again in the fall classic thirty-eight years later—by that time, the Braves had moved to Atlanta. As of 2019, this is the most recent World Series featuring the two previous Series winning teams.1960 New York Yankees season
The 1960 New York Yankees season was the 58th season for the team in New York, and its 60th season overall. The team finished with a record of 97–57, winning its 25th pennant, finishing 8 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. New York was managed by Casey Stengel. The Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games.1960 World Series
The 1960 World Series was played between the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League (NL) and the New York Yankees of the American League (AL) from October 5 to 13, 1960. It is most notable for the Game 7, ninth-inning home run hit by Bill Mazeroski, the first time a winner-take-all World Series game has ended with a walk-off home run.
Despite losing the series, the Yankees scored 55 runs, the most runs scored by any one team in World Series history, a unique record, and more than twice as many as the Pirates, who scored 27 runs. The Yankees won three blowout games (16–3, 10–0, and 12–0), while the Pirates won four close games (6–4, 3–2, 5–2, and 10–9) to win the series. The Series MVP was Bobby Richardson of the Yankees, the only time in history that the award has been given to a member of the losing team.
This World Series featured seven past, present, or future league Most Valuable Players. The Pirates had two – Dick Groat (1960) and Roberto Clemente (1966) – while the Yankees had five: Yogi Berra (1951, 1954, 1955), Bobby Shantz (1952), Mickey Mantle (1956, 1957, 1962), Roger Maris (1960, 1961), and Elston Howard (1963).
As noted in the superstition called the "Ex-Cub Factor", this was the only Series after 1945 and until 2001 in which a team with three or more former members of the Chicago Cubs (Don Hoak, Smoky Burgess, and Gene Baker) was able to win a World Series.
The World Championship for the Pirates was their third overall and first since 1925.1961 World Series
The 1961 World Series matched the New York Yankees (109–53) against the Cincinnati Reds (93–61), with the Yankees winning in five games to earn their 19th championship in 39 seasons. This World Series was surrounded by Cold War political puns pitting the "Reds" against the "Yanks." But the louder buzz concerned the "M&M" boys, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who spent the summer chasing the ghost of Babe Ruth and his 60–home run season of 1927. Mantle finished with 54 while Maris set the record of 61 on the last day of the season. With all the attention surrounding the home run race, the World Series seemed almost anticlimatic.
The Yankees were under the leadership of first-year manager Ralph Houk, who succeeded Casey Stengel. The Yankees won the American League pennant, finishing eight games better than the Detroit Tigers. The Bronx Bombers also set a Major League record for most home runs in a season with 240. Along with Maris and Mantle, four other Yankees, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, and Johnny Blanchard, hit more than 20 home runs. The pitching staff was also led by Cy Young Award-winner Whitey Ford (25–4, 3.21).
The underdog Reds, skippered by Fred Hutchinson, finished four games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League and boasted four 20-plus home run hitters of their own: NL MVP Frank Robinson, Gordy Coleman, Gene Freese and Wally Post. The second-base, shortstop, and catcher positions were platooned, while center fielder Vada Pinson led the league in hits with 208 and finished second in batting with a .343 average. Joey Jay (21–10, 3.53) led the staff, along with dependable Jim O'Toole and Bob Purkey.
The American League added two teams, the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators, through expansion and also increased teams' respective schedules by eight games to 162. The National League was a year away from its own expansion as the Reds and the other NL teams maintained the 154-game schedule.
The Most Valuable Player Award for the series went to lefty Whitey Ford, who won two games while throwing 14 shutout innings.
Ford left the sixth inning of Game 4 due to an injured ankle. He set the record for consecutive scoreless innings during World Series play with 32, when, during the third inning he passed the previous record holder, Babe Ruth, who had pitched 29 2⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings for the Boston Red Sox in 1916 and 1918. Ford would extend that record to 33 2⁄3 in the 1962 World Series.
The 1961 five-game series was the shortest since 1954, when the New York Giants swept the Cleveland Indians in four games.
These two teams would meet again 15 years later in the 1976 World Series, which the Reds would win in a four-game sweep.1962 New York Yankees season
The 1962 New York Yankees season was the 60th season for the team in New York, and its 62nd season overall. The team finished with a record of 96–66, winning their 27th pennant, finishing 5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they defeated the San Francisco Giants in 7 games. It was their 20th World Championship in franchise history, and their last until 1977.1963 Major League Baseball season
The 1963 Major League Baseball season was contested from April 8 to October 6, 1963. The American League and National League both featured ten teams, with each team playing a 162-game schedule.
In the World Series the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the New York Yankees in four straight games. The Dodgers' stellar pitching staff, anchored by left-hander Sandy Koufax and right-hander Don Drysdale, was so dominant that the vaunted Yankees, despite the presence of sluggers such as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in their lineup, never took a lead against Los Angeles the entire Series.1963 New York Yankees season
The 1963 New York Yankees season was the 61st season for the team in New York, and its 63rd season overall. The team finished with a record of 104–57, winning their 28th pennant, finishing 10½ games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. New York was managed by Ralph Houk.
The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they were defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 4 games, the first time the Yankees had ever been swept in the World Series (they had lost 4 games to none with one tied game in 1922).1964 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The 1964 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 35th midseason exhibition between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and the National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was played on July 7, 1964, at Shea Stadium in New York City, New York, home of the New York Mets of the National League. The game was a 7–4 victory for the NL. Johnny Callison hit a walk-off home run, the most recent MLB All-Star game to end in such a fashion.1964 New York Yankees season
The 1964 New York Yankees season was the 62nd season for the Yankees. The team finished with a record of 99–63, winning their 29th pennant, finishing 1 game ahead of the Chicago White Sox. New York was managed by Yogi Berra. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they were defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. It would also be their last playoff appearance until 1976.
Yogi Berra, taking over as manager from Ralph Houk, who in turn moved up to general manager, had a difficult early season, with many veterans missing games due to injury. Doubts about his ability to manage his former teammates were brought into the open with the Harmonica Incident in late August, in which he clashed with utility infielder Phil Linz on the team bus following a sweep by the Chicago White Sox that appeared to have removed the Yankees from pennant contention. The team rallied behind Berra afterwards, and won the pennant. However the incident may have convinced the team's executives to replace Berra with Johnny Keane, manager of the victorious Cardinals, after the season.
This season is considered to be the endpoint of the "Old Yankees" dynasty that had begun with the Ruppert–Huston partnership and then continued with the Topping–Webb partnership. The Yankees would soon undergo ownership changes and front office turmoil, and would not be a serious factor in the pennant chase again until the mid 1970s. For television viewers and radio listeners, the sudden removal of Mel Allen following that season marked the end of an era of Yankees television and radio broadcasts.1965 New York Yankees season
The 1965 New York Yankees season was the 63rd season for the Yankees in New York and their 65th overall. The team finished with a record of 77–85, finishing 25 games behind the Minnesota Twins. New York was managed by Johnny Keane.
This season marked the beginning of a transition for the Yankees before a resurgence in the mid 1970s. This was the first season since 1925 that they failed to finish either above the .500 mark or in the first division. They would finish last in 1966, their first time doing so since 1912.1967 New York Yankees season
The 1967 New York Yankees season was the 67th season for the Yankees franchise, 65th in New York. The team finished ahead of only the Kansas City Athletics (who moved to Oakland after the season ended) in the American League final standings, with a record of 72–90, finishing 20 games behind the Boston Red Sox. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.1968 Boston Red Sox season
The 1968 Boston Red Sox season was the 68th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished fourth in the American League (AL) with a record of 86 wins and 76 losses, 17 games behind the AL and World Series champion Detroit Tigers.Elston Turner
Elston Howard Turner Sr. (born June 10, 1959) is a retired American professional basketball player who currently works as an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA).Jake Gibbs
Jerry Dean "Jake" Gibbs (born November 7, 1938) is a former Major League Baseball player who played for the New York Yankees as a platoon catcher from 1962 to 1971. Although Gibbs was the regular starting catcher for NY in 1967 and '68, he was primarily a back-up for Elston Howard and then Thurman Munson at the tail-end of his career.
Prior to beginning his professional baseball career, Gibbs had successful careers in college baseball and college football at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for the Ole Miss Rebels. He was also a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) Fraternity. He returned to Ole Miss to coach the baseball and football teams.Yankeeography
Yankeeography is a biography-style television program that chronicles the lives and careers of the players, coaches, and other notable personnel associated with the New York Yankees Major League Baseball team. The series is aired on the YES Network and is produced by MLB Productions. The series is hosted by Yankees radio personality John Sterling. The series has earned five New York Sports Emmy Awards since its inception. In addition to airing on YES, MLB Productions has packaged many of the shows into DVD boxed sets.
After debuting as a weekly show with the 2002 launch of YES, Yankeeography only debuts new episodes periodically (as there are fewer prominent Yankees yet to be spotlighted). For instance, four episodes premiered in 2006: Tino Martinez, David Cone, the Yankees' 1996 World Series team, and Billy Martin. All Yankees with retired numbers have had shows completed with the exception of Bill Dickey. The show has been criticized for producing episodes on players who remain active while Hall of Famers from much earlier eras such as Jack Chesbro, Tony Lazzeri, Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez were not profiled. Some profiles have been updated to reflect new developments.
|Division titles (17)|
|Wild Card titles (7)|
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