Friday, January 15, 2010

#450 Elston Howard

#450 Elston Howard
Do you think this counts for our ongoing series of players with two first names? Elston sounds more like a last name, but it gets the job done, I'd say. At any rate, this is a pretty nifty card featuring the first black player to be a regular for the Yankees.

Fun facts about Elston Howard:

-Born in St. Louis, MO, Elston started his pro baseball career with the Negro League club in Kansas City before signing with the Yankees in 1950.

-Missed the 1951-1952 seasons while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and was 26 by the time he debuted with New York in 1955. Playing primarily in the outfield (as the Yanks had Yogi Berra behind the plate), he hit .290 with ten homers and a career-best seven triples in 97 games.

-Played in ten World Series, coming out on the winning side four times. Homered off of Don Newcombe in his first postseason at-bat in 1955, one of five career Fall Classic home runs. He also drove in 19 runs in Series play.

-Was credited with innovating the weighted batting donut.

-Was an All-Star for nine straight seasons (1957-1965). Batted over .300 three times in that span, including a high of .348 in 1961.

-Became the first black American Leaguer to win the MVP award in 1963, when he hit .287 with 85 RBI and a career-high 28 home runs.

-Finally replaced Berra as the primary Yankee catcher in 1960 and was soon known as one of the finest defenders behind the plate. Won Gold Gloves in 1963 and 1964.

-Was traded to Boston halfway through the 1967 season and became a respected veteran counselor to the young pitching staff of the soon-to-be A.L. champs.

-Retired after the 1968 season as a .274 lifetime hitter with 167 home runs and 762 RBI in 14 seasons.

-Coached first base for the Yankees from 1969 through 1979, and spent 1980 in the club's front office before dying that December of heart failure at age 51. New York retired his uniform number 32 in 1984.
#450 Elston Howard (back)


  1. Ellie Howard had a travel business in my hometown (Nutley N.J.) in the early 60s. My buddy and I would walk by there every day on our way home from school and would peer in the windows hoping to catch a glimpse of him. One day his secretary waved us inside and asked us our names. A few days later she did it again and gave us autographed photos he had inscribed to us. Mine is packed away with most of the rest of my memorabilia. We never actually got to see Ellie.

  2. What was in the water in N.Y. in '61? Several Yankees, including Howard, had career years that season. Bouton has a few humorous incidents involving Elston in Ball Four.

  3. Bob - I guess that's what kids miss by riding the bus these days.

    Anon - It's not just the Yankees that had career years in 1961. With the A.L. expanding to include the Angels and the second Senators team, offense jumped all over. Norm Cash and Jim Gentile also blew up that season.