14 March 2012

Face of the Senators: Frank Howard

FRANK HOWARD - (9), 33
Face of the Senators
Senators 1965 - 1971
Frank and his statue at Nationals Park 08 April 2009 Unveiling
(photo from Nationals News Network blog)

"Hondo" is in the house!
John Wayne as Hondo Lane from "Hondo" 1953 Warner Brothers Pictures
(Promo photo from Denver Post. Com)

No Not that Hondo...This Hondo!

Frank Howard pic from 1965 Washington Senators Program

 Starting to grow up as a Senators fan, Frank Howard quickly became one of my if not my favorite Senator (Ed Brinkman, Casey Cox, Mike Epstein and skipper Ted Williams are also along there somewhere), but alas the team moved to become the Texas Rangers in late 1971. I'm pretty sure Frank was also a favorite of at least one of my older brothers if not both. I recall we used to have one of the 1970 Topps mini posters taped, thumb-tacked or push-pinned to the bedroom wall.

Frank Howard Promo Photo circa 1969

I think at one time this 5.5" x 8" promo photo may have hung on the wall as well Yes it has been 3-hole punched (well 2-hole punched) to go into a notebook binder and "scrapbooked on" on the back.

Frank Howard Promo Photo (back) circa 1969

I think some of those tape marks are from comic strip characters clippings (*Albert Alligator from the "Pogo" comic strip comes to mind for some reason) or some team logo from some sport. OK so I should try to get an upgrade for this photo.

I'm pretty sure at one time in my childhood I had his 1968 or 1969 through to 1972 Topps cards. Since I didn't get any 1973 cards (his final year as a player and final player card) in the day. I didn't get that one until just a few years ago via Ebay. I don't think I had any earlier ones and I know for certain as a kid I didn't have any from his early years when he was on the Dodgers. Some of those including his Rookie card (of which I have 2 for some reason) I have only gotten in recent years.

In the day before the 1972s came out (and then 1974s, 1975s) my favorite Topps baseball cards were probably 1968, 1969, and 1970. I wouldn't know about Bowman from the '50s for another few years yet. For some reason in 1971 I didn't really like the 1971s, maybe it was the plain black border or that most of the ones I had my 6-year old self instantly transformed them into "Poor Old Baseball Cards". As a kid I would do at least two terrible things to cards I would write in red ink on the front or black magic marker on the back my "K" initial in very large sloppy little kid print. On the 71s I usually didn't do the Large K on the front but I would color in the team logo on the hats on the players head shot on the back and sometimes do the very large black magic marker "K". A few of those poor cards I still have. Sadly most of the very large K cards I tossed out when I was 9 or 10 one spring along with bits and pieces I had from other "victim" cards for Scrapbooks.

I was "Scrapbooking" before what I was doing was called "scrapbooking" or even before housewives latched onto the concept as an artsy hobby. Well maybe not the old days of scrapbooking was pasting family portrait photos into photo albums in a creative way I guess. Anyway I would cut out the team logos from cards, or the hat from the player, the team's name or the player's picture and glue/tape them into and onto scrapbooks, scrap-papers. The 1970 Topps All-Star cards (with the faux The Sporting News newspaper background) were great to cut out with that star-burst shape they have. I know the 70s are just a gray border, but there was something about the faux signatures and the yellow backs with blue lettering that I liked. Now many years later I enjoy the 71s for what they are. Enough babbling I've got to show some pretty cards.

 1960 Topps Baseball - 132 Frank Howard RC Dodgers
(Front and Back)

 1970 Kellogg's "3-D" Baseball - 6 Frank Howard Senators
(Front and Back)

1970 Topps Baseball - 550 Frank Howard Senators
(Front and Back)

The Frank Howard cards that I remember most from back in the day are the 1971 Topps and this 1972 Topps. Even though I felt a bit betrayed by having my team move (Hmm can you say Baltimore Colts?) I think the little spark of having cards from a "brand new team" was lit a little bit in me back then.

 1972 Topps Baseball - 350 Frank Howard Rangers
(Front and Back)

1973 Topps Baseball - 560 Frank Howard Tigers
(Front and Back)

This last "Hondo" card actually has Frank's nickname "Hondo" on it. The nickname was first given to him by team-mates and then it spread to the fans, probably through the media and interviews with team-mates. The brief super Reader's Digest history of the "Ted Williams" card sets of 1993 and 1994. Ted's only son John Henry Williams started up a card company and produced these beautiful cards as well as a Football set in 1994. The company didn't last very long. Which is a shame because the sets are really beautiful.
 1994 Ted Williams Baseball - 88 Frank Howard Senators
(Front and Back)

Frank is one of three DC Baseball Heroes that are honored at Nationals park with "In-Action" statues. The other two are Baseball Legend Walter Johnson and one of the more sung-about "unsung heroes" of the Negro Baseball Leagues Josh Gibson. The statues look sort of like a cross between anime action sequences and some kind of ancient Hindu God(s) statues with multiple arms. I'm not a huge fan of the "In-Action" aspect of the statues, but I appreciate and respect the artistic originality of them. Some people call them just plain ugly, which was my first reaction. I like them a little bit now. More info on those statues can be read and seen here: Nationals News Network, and Nats320.

Frank is all about stories here is a nice two-part interview with him in 2007 by a DC Blogger  who is a longtime Senators/Nationals fan - Nats320 (AKA: Screech's Best Friend) [part one] [part two] and a catch up session in 2009 [Catching up]. One of my favorite quotes/stories is on Frank's bio page at wikipedia - "On April 14, 2005, baseball came back to Washington. In 1972 Howard had thought that before much time had passed, another President would deliver the opening-day pitch in the capital. Looking back, he remarked, "I thought that within five years it would be back. Well, 34 years later, here we are." Before the game at RFK Stadium between the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks, Howard walked out to left field and was greeted by a loud ovation during pregame ceremonies which featured players from both former Senators clubs. At age 68, Howard joked, "I know I'm going to left field—if I can make it that far without having a coronary. I used to be able to sprint out there but don't even know if I'll be able to jog. I told (former Senator Ed) Brinkman, 'For crissakes, call 911 if I have a blowout in left field.' "

Senators/Nationals mentioned in this post:
Ed Brinkman
Casey Cox
Mike Epstein
Frank Howard
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams

Other Notable Washington DC Players mentioned in this post:
Josh Gibson (Negro Leagues: Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords)

On Deck: Nick Johnson - 24
In The Hole: Brian Schneider - (39) 23

*Edited: Originally said "Wally Gator comes to mind for some reason" got my gators all goulashed up I was really thinking Albert.

Frank Howard Baseball Reference

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