FILE – Former Washington Senators player Frank Howard grips a baseball bat during a pregame ceremony at Nationals Park, Aug. 26, 2016, in Washington. Former major leaguer Howard has died at the age of 87. A spokesperson for the Washington Nationals confirmed the team was informed of Howard’s death Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, by his family. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
Frank Howard, a four-time All-Star who slugged 382 home runs during a lengthy major league career that included a World Series title with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1963, has died. He was 87.
A spokesperson for the Washington Nationals said the team was informed of Howard’s death by his family Monday. A cause of death was not provided.
“He was the ultimate teammate, always,” Dick Bosman, who played six-plus seasons with Howard with Washington and Texas and remained friends with him for decades, told The Associated Press by phone Monday. “Next to my dad, he’s the greatest guy I know.”
Howard played seven seasons with the Washington Senators after earning NL Rookie of the Year honors with the Dodgers in 1960 and helping them win the World Series three years later. He was with the Senators when they relocated to Texas and became the Rangers and finished his playing career with the Detroit Tigers.
“Growing up a baseball fan in Washington D.C., Frank Howard was my hero,” Nationals owner Mark Lerner said in a statement. “The towering home runs he hit into the stands at RFK Stadium gave him the nickname ‘Capital Punisher,’ but I’ll always remember him as a kind and gentle man. The entire Lerner family would like to offer our thoughts and condolences to Frank’s family during this difficult time. The world of baseball has truly lost a giant.”
Howard hit the final home run for the Senators at RFK in 1971 and the first at Arlington Stadium in April 1972 after the team moved. The Rangers called Howard “a bigger than life personality who was very popular with his teammates and the fans.”
Nicknamed “Hondo,” Howard played 1,895 regular-season and three postseason games from 1958-73. He spent a brief time as a manager, with the San Diego Padres in 1981 and the New York Mets in 1983.
Bosman, who last spoke with Howard two weeks ago and called the news of his death a shock, remembered his friend’s contributions in Washington and Texas as massive on and off the field.
“Playing with Frank Howard was one of the best experiences I had, and the reason I say that is because he taught us how to be big leaguers,” Bosman said. “He taught us how to carry ourselves when we were bad — and we were bad. And when we did win, he taught us how to carry ourselves when we won a few ballgames here and there. He was that example in word and deed all the time.”
Howard led the American League in home runs twice, in 1968 and ‘70, sandwiched around his 48-homer season that remains the most in Washington baseball history. He was inducted into the Nationals’ ring of honor in 2016.
“Frank was a legendary figure in this town and a player that D.C. baseball fans truly admired,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “I had the utmost respect for him both as a ballplayer and as a human being, and it was always a pleasure seeing him at Nationals Park. He was generous with his time and was never afraid to pass along his knowledge and wisdom.”
At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, Howard was a massive, imposing figure as an outfielder and first baseman. He was also often the Senators/Rangers’ best hitter during times the team had six losing seasons out of seven.
“We didn’t score a whole lot of runs, and it was on his back a lot of times to score a few runs,” Bosman said. “He obviously responded to that pretty darn good most of the time.”
Howard was quick to correct teammates privately, leading the way with more than just his bat.
“I don’t think I saw him angry more than two or three times,” Bosman said. “I mean, you didn’t want that big guy to be angry anyway, but that’s just the way that he felt that he should carry himself.”
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb
By The Associated Press